The death toll after a powerful earthquake that shook eastern Turkey on the eve rose to 21 people, with more than 1,000 injured, emergency officials said Saturday.
Rescuers were still searching for about 30 people buried under the rubble of fallen buildings in Elazig province and neighboring Malatya, said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. The death toll could increase, he warned.
Emergency teams and security forces distributed tents, beds and blankets while the thermometers recorded negative temperatures during the night. Mosques, schools, sports centers and student residences were opened to house the hundreds of people who left their homes after the earthquake.
“The earthquake was very serious, we ran desperate (from our house),” Emre Gocer told Anadolu state news agency while taking refuge with his family in a sports hall in Sivrice, in the province of Elazig. “We don’t have a safe place to stay.”
The tremor occurred on Friday at 20:55 at a depth of 6.7 kilometers (about four miles) near Sivrice, in Elazig, explained the Presidency of Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD). Several seismic activity monitoring centers offered magnitudes between 6.5 and 6.8.
After the earthquake, 228 aftershocks were produced, the strongest with magnitudes of 5.4 and 5.1, the AFAD said.
At least five buildings collapsed in Sivrice and another 25 were destroyed in the Malatya region, said Minister of Environment and Urban Planning, Murat Kurum. Hundreds of structures were damaged and unsafe.
According to an AFAD statement, 17 people died in Elazig and four more in Malatya, and some 1,030 people were injured.
Television images showed rescuers removing two people from the remains of a building demolished in the town of Gezin. Another was saved in the city of Elazig, the capital of the region, and two more in a house in Doganyol, Malatya.
In total, 28 rescue teams were working against the clock in the area, said AFAD, which said that more than 1,300 workers from 39 of the country’s 81 provinces were mobilized.
“Our greatest hope is that the death toll will not increase,” said the president of parliament, Mustafa Sentop.
Telecommunications companies announced free telephone and internet services for residents in the region, and Turkish Airlines enabled extra flights.
The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in a message posted on Twitter overnight that all necessary measures were being taken to “ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and felt in many provinces is overcome with the least amount of losses ”.