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At least 18 dead as earthquake shakes eastern Turkey

By Associated Press Reporter

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked a sparsely-populated part of eastern Turkey on Friday, killing at least 18 people, injuring more than 500 and leaving some 30 trapped in the wreckage of toppled buildings, Turkish officials said.

Rescue teams from neighbouring areas were dispatched to the affected areas, working in the dark with floodlights in the freezing cold, and Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said troops were on standby to help.

Hundreds of residents were left homeless or with damaged homes.

TV footage showed rescuers pull out one injured person from the rubble of a collapsed building in the district of Gezin, in eastern Elazig.

Around 30 were believed to be trapped inside collapsed structures in Elazig, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.

Health minister Fahrettin Koca, who traveled to the afflicted area together with Mr Soylu, said 13 people were killed in Elazig, including two people who suffered heart attacks, and five others died in Malatya.

A total of 553 people were hurt, including 11 who were in serious condition.

Some 30 buildings had collapsed from the quake in the two provinces, according to Murat Kurum, the environment minister.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that all measures were being taken to “ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and was felt in many areas is overcome with the least amount of loss”.

He said the ministers for the interior, health and the environment were sent to the afflicted region.

A collapsed building after the earthquake struck Elazig city centre (DHA via AP)

The quake struck at 8.55pm local time (5.55pm GMT) at a depth of 6.7km near the town of Sivrice in Elazig, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said.

It was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1.

Elazig is some 465 miles east of the capital, Ankara.

People in Elazig whose homes were damaged or were too afraid to go indoors were being moved to student dormitories or sports centre amid freezing conditions.

Two men check inside a badly damaged building (DHA via AP)

Elazig governor Cetin Oktay Kaldirim told NTV television that a fire broke out in a building in Sivrice but was quickly brought under control.

Earlier, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told NTV television that rescuers were trying to reach survivors after a four- or five-story building collapsed in the town of Maden, in Elazig. Other buildings collapsed in Sivrice.

Local administrator Cuma Telceken said up to seven people are believed to be trapped inside two collapsed buildings in Maden.

Mr Soylu was at a meeting on earthquake preparedness when the quake struck.

The Kandilli seismology centre in Istanbul said the quake measured 6.5, while the US Geological Survey gave the preliminary magnitude as 6.7, and said the quake affected not only Turkey but also Syria, Georgia and Armenia.

Different earthquake monitoring centres frequently give differing estimates.

NTV said the earthquake was felt in several Turkish areas and sent people running outdoors in panic.

Turkey sits on top of two major fault-lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck north-west Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.

A magnitude 6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.