Powerful quake kills 22 in eastern Turkey

Over 30 people remain missing after 6.8 magnitude tremor hits Elazig province

Photo: Reuters Turkish officials and police work at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig, eastern Turkey

A powerful earthquake has killed at least 22 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey, as rescue teams searched through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors on Saturday. More than 200 aftershocks have been recorded after the earthquake.

The Turkish government's disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD) said in a series of tweets early on Saturday that five people were pulled alive from the rubble in the eastern province of Elazig. State news agency Anadolu said among those found alive was a pregnant woman who was rescued 12 hours after the quake hit.

At least 30 people, however, are still missing following the magnitude 6.8 quake on Friday night, which had its epicentre in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in Elazig. The tremor led to casualties in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakir, Batman, Sanliurfa, Adiyaman and Kahramanmaras and was followed by numerous aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1. They were felt in several parts of eastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, the Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, adding that neighbouring cities had mobilised rescue teams for the quake area.

"It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside," 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the provincial capital of Elazig, told AFP.

In a statement after the deadly earthquake, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by it.

"We stand by our people," Erdogan said on Twitter.

AFAD said the quake hit Sivrice at around 8.55 pm (1755 GMT). Sivrice - a town with a population of about 4,000 - is situated some 550km east of the capital Ankara, on the shores of Hazar lake - one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris river. The lake is also home to a "Sunken City", with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.

In 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Izmit in western Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 people dead including about 1,000 in the country's largest city Istanbul. Then, in September last year, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul, causing residents to flee buildings in the economic capital.

Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate the city of 15 million people, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.

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