Death toll from eastern Turkey earthquake rises to 22 - UPDATED

Sat 25 Jan 2020 09:40 GMT | 13:40 Local Time

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The death toll from Friday's powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey has risen to 22, the country's interior minister said on Saturday, Anadolu Agency reported.

"Four people died in Malatya's Doganyol [town] and 18 others in Elazig," said Suleyman Soylu at a news conference along with health minister and environment and urbanization minister in quake-hit Elazig province.

A total of 39 people were also rescued from the rubble of collapsed houses and buildings, Soylu added.

He said that it is decided to evacuate a prison in Turkey's eastern Adiyaman province which was damaged as a result of the quake.

Meanwhile, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that 128 injured people were receiving treatment in hospitals and 34 of them were in intensive care units.

For his part, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum advised locals not to enter damaged houses as aftershocks continue in the region.

Kurum added that a 368-member team was at the field to assess the damage caused by the quake.

The 6.8-magnitude quake hit eastern Elazig province at 8.55 p.m. local time (1755GMT) on Friday, with its epicenter in Sivrice district, along with neighboring provinces and countries including Syria and Georgia.


At least 21 people were killed and 1,030 others were injured after a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 rocked the eastern Turkish province of Elazığ on Friday evening, Daily Sabah reported. 

According to Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), 17 people were killed and 654 people were injured in Elazığ, the hardest hit province. Four people were killed in and 226 people were injured neighboring Malatya province with main damage occurring in Doğanyol district. Dozens of others were also wounded in southern and southeastern provinces of Adıyaman, Kahramanmaraş, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa and Batman.

Efforts are still ongoing to rescue 36 people believed to be under rubble at various areas in Elazığ. A woman person was rescued 14 hours after the earthquake hit the region, bringing the total number of rescued people to ten, including two children.

A pregnant woman who was pulled from the rubble 12 hours after the tremor was among the survivors. A 12-year-old girl, who was rescued 11 hours after the earthquake, later died at the hospital.

The quake struck Sivrice district at 8:55 p.m. (1755 GMT) from a depth of 6.7 kilometers, according to AFAD. Sivrice, a town with a population of about 4,000 people, is situated south of Elazığ city center on the shores of Lake Hazar. The lake is one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris River. It is home to a "Sunken City", with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.
Soon after the initial quake, the province was shaken further by at least 274 aftershocks with at least 12 above magnitude 4, with the highest being an aftershock of magnitude 5.4.

The earthquake caused panic among residents of major cities of Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa and Adıyaman. No major damages were reported from the region. According to initial reports, the earthquake was felt in provinces as far as southern Adana and northern Samsun, along with northern Syria and Iraq. Local media in Lebanon said the cities of Beirut and Tripoli also felt the quake, along with similar reports from Israel.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by the quake, which caused widespread fear. "We stand by our people," Erdoğan said on Twitter.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and Environment and Urbanism Minister Murat Kurum arrived in the province on late Friday to help coordinate rescue and relief efforts.

"170 additional ambulances have been dispatched to Elazığ and Malatya provinces. Air ambulances are also ready to help the affected," Koca stated, adding that more that 30 residents are under the wreckage in Elazığ. The search and rescue operations are continuing and the death toll could rise, said Koca.

Soylu said the injured were transferred to hospitals and facilities have been opened to serve those who have been affected.

Five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Doğanyol district were destroyed, said Kurum. He also cautioned residents not to go into damaged buildings.

National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the army was ready to step into action if need be.

Soon after the quake, officials said hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid, including food, medicine, blankets and tents were dispatched to Elazığ and neighboring provinces. Thousands of search and rescue crews, as well as medical personnel were also sent to the area.

Apart from brief electricity cuts, no major infrastructure damages has been reported in the aftermath of the earthquake. The greatest challenge for locals is harsh winter conditions in the region, where temperatures plunge as low as -8 degrees Celsius during the night. Emergency staff and people waiting at the scene lit fires in the streets to stay warm in freezing temperatures. Sports centers, schools and guest houses had been opened to accommodate quake victims in Malatya.

Turkey is among the world's most seismically active countries as it is situated on several active fault lines, and dozens of minor earthquakes and aftershocks occur daily.

The earthquake in Elazığ was triggered by the deadly East Anatolian fault line, stretching some 650 kilometers from eastern Turkey's highlands to the Mediterranean, from where it turns southwards and meets the northern end of the Great Rift system separating African and Arabian plates. The strike-slip fault was formed millions of years ago as the Anatolian plate was being pushed northwestwards by the Arabian plate.

Experts noted that the line has mainly been silent after producing series of devastating earthquakes recorded in 16th and 19th centuries. However, major earthquakes with significant intensity often occur in the region. In 2010, Elazığ province was hit by a 6-magnitude earthquake, killing a total of 51 people in villages of Karakoçan district. Some 350 kilometers to the east in 2011, an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Erciş, some 100 kilometers to the north, killing at least 523 people.

The fault line is now expected to produce major earthquakes to the southwest.

The most potentially devastating fault line in the country is the North Anatolian fault line (NAF), where the Anatolian and Eurasian plates meet. The NAF has also produced devastating earthquakes throughout history.

More than 17,000 people were killed and over 43,000 were injured when a magnitude 7.4 quake rocked the Marmara region for 37 seconds in the early hours of Aug. 17, 1999, with its epicenter located in Gölcük province, some 75 kilometers southeast of the Bosporus. Three months later, on Nov. 12, 1999, 845 people were killed and nearly 5,000 injured when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Düzce province, about 120 kilometers northeast of Gölcük.

In September, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in the Marmara Sea shook Istanbul and sent panic across the city, injuring 34 and damaging 473 buildings.




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