OKCULAR VILLAGE: A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6 struck eastern Turkey on Monday, killing 57 people as it knocked down stone or mud-brick houses and minarets in at least six villages, the government said.
The government s crisis center said about 100 other people were injured in the quake, which hit at 4:32 am (0232 GMT, 9 p.m. EST Sunday) in Elazig province, about 550 kilometers east of Ankara, the capital.
The earthquake, which caught many people as they slept, was centered near the village of Basyurt and followed by more than 30 aftershocks, the strongest measuring 5.5 and 5.1, the Kandilli seismology center said.
The worst-hit area was the village of Okcular, where some 17 people were killed and homes crumbled into piles of dirt. Another 13 people were killed in the village of Yukari Demirci, Gov. Muammer Erol said.
By noon, everyone had been removed from the rubble and there was no one left buried inside the debris, Erol said.
Everything has been knocked down, there is not a stone in place, said Yadin Apaydin, administrator for the village of Yukari Kanatli, where he said at least three villagers died.
Authorities blocked access to Okcular so ambulances and rescue teams could maneuver on the village s narrow roads. Relatives rushed to the village for news of their loved ones.
The village is totally flattened, village administrator Hasan Demirdag told private NTV television.
Ali Riza Ferhat, an Okcular resident, said he was woken up by the jolt.
I tried to get out of the door but it wouldn t open. I came out of the window and started helping my neighbors, he told NTV television. We removed six bodies.
Villagers lit fires to keep warm.
The quake was felt in the neighboring provinces of Tunceli, Bingol and Diyarbakir, where residents fled to the streets in panic and spent the night outdoors.
Some of the injuries occurred during the panic, when people jumped from windows or balconies. Video from the Dogan news agency showed residents bringing the injured to hospitals by cars and taxis.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kandilli Observatory s director, Mustafa Erdik, urged residents not to enter any damaged homes, warning that they could topple from aftershocks that Erdik said could last for days.
Television footage showed rescue workers and soldiers at Okcular lifting debris as villagers looked on. Rescuers dug into the dirt, finding the body of an elderly man, and quickly covered him with a sheet.
Two women sat on mattresses wrapped in blankets. The temblor also knocked down barns, killing farm animals.
Turkey s Red Crescent organization sent tents and blankets to the region. Erdogan said ambulance helicopters, prefabricated homes and mobile kitchens were also being sent.
Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, much of which lies on top of the North Anatolian fault. In 1999, two powerful earthquakes struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.
In 2007, an earthquake measuring 5.7 damaged buildings in Elazig, briefly trapping a woman under debris. In 2003, an earthquake measuring 6.4 magnitude collapsed a school dormitory in the neighboring province of Bingol, killing 83 children. The collapse was blamed on poor construction.