Turkey earthquake: Death toll rises to 29 after major tremor hits Elazig province

Colin Drury
A woman, trapped for 14 hours, is rescued from the rubble in Elazig after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Turkey: Anadolu Agency via Getty

At least 29 people have been killed and more than 1,200 injured in the massive earthquake that struck eastern Turkey on Friday evening.

Buildings collapsed and residents fled into the streets during the 6.8-magnitude quake in the country’s Elazig province.

Overnight rescue work was hampered by some 250 aftershocks and temperatures plummeting to -8C in the region.

Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said that 42 people had been pulled alive from the rubble, with another 20 thought to still be trapped.

"Our houses collapsed ... we cannot go inside them," a 32-year-old told Reuters in the lakeside town of Sivrice, located near the epicentre of the earthquake.

He added: "In our village some people lost their lives. I hope God will help us. Our animals died. Our families gathered around the fire to spend the night, covered with blankets.”

Suleyman Soylu, Turkey’s interior minister, described the quake as a "level three" incident within the country's emergency response plan, meaning that it called for a national response but did not require international help.

He said that the country, which straddles seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes, had learnt lessons from previous disasters, and drones were being deployed in search operations.

Residents were warned not to return to damaged buildings because of the danger of further aftershocks.

Beds, blankets and tents were being sent to the area, as some people sheltered in sports gymnasiums.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cancelled his plans in Istanbul on Saturday and went to Elazig to inspect the rescue efforts. He also attended a funeral for a woman and her son killed in the quake, which he described as a "test" for Turkey.

"We are doing everything we can as the state and nation, and we will continue to do so," he said at the funeral, while also promising that state house developer Toki would ensure no Turks were left "hungry or in the open".

Of those known to have died, 18 were in Elazig province, and another four in neighbouring Malatya.

The earthquake was felt in Syria, Iran and Lebanon, according to media in those countries.

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18 dead and buildings collapse after Turkey earthquake