Death toll set to rise after devastating earthquake hits eastern Turkey

An earthquake that struck Elazığ province on Friday evening has killed at least 22 people and injured over 1,000.

The death toll is expected to rise as many people are feared trapped under collapsed buildings following the 6.8 magnitude quake that occurred at around 20:55 local time (17:55 GMT).

There have also been fatalities in neighbouring Malatya province, while dozens were injured in the southern and southeastern provinces of Adıyaman, Kahramanmaraş, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa and Batman.

According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), there were more than 200 aftershocks recorded after the powerful earthquake, which was felt as far away as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Sivrice, the small town at the epicentre of the devastating quake, has a population of a little over 4,000 people. It is situated on the shores of Lake Hazar, a popular tourist spot and the source of the River Tigris, 30km south of Elazığ city centre.

This morning the town was hit by another quake with a magnitude of 4.3. People have been warned not to return to their homes.

A massive rescue operation is underway across the region, being co-ordinated by three ministers: Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and Environment and Cities Minister Murat Kurum. The three men arrived in Elazığ late Friday to oversee the relief and rescue work.

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid, including food, medicine, blankets and tents, have been sent to the worst-affected parts of the region. Hundreds of additional medical personnel are also working with search and rescue crews, aided by the Turkish Red Crescent.

A pregnant woman who was pulled from the rubble 12 hours after the tremor was among the survivors, according to media reports. A 12-year-old girl who was rescued 11 hours after the earthquake, sadly later died in hospital.

Turkey has a history of earthquakes. One of the worst, in the western city of Izmit in 1999, killed more than 17,000 people.