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Turkey earthquake: death toll rises as search for survivors continues

The death toll from a powerful earthquake that hit eastern Turkey has risen to 21 people, with more than 1,000 injured, say emergency officials.

Rescue workers were continuing to search for 30 people buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Elâzığ province and neighbouring Malatya, said the health minister, Fahrettin Koca. He warned that the death toll could rise further.

TV footage showed rescuers pulling out two injured people from the rubble of a collapsed building in Elâzığ province. At least three people were believed to be trapped in a building in the area, where officials said four or five structures had toppled, including one at least four storeys high.

“It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside,” Melahat Can, 47, who lives in Elâzığ city, told Agence France-Presse.

Seventeen people were killed in Elâzığ and four more in the neighbouring province of Malatya, Turkey’s disaster and emergency management authority (AFAD) said. Some 1,030 people were injured.

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

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

The quake struck at 8.55pm local time at a depth of 6.7km (4.2 miles) near the town of Sivrice, the AFAD said. It was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1.

Elâzığ is about 750km (465 miles) east of the capital, Ankara.

Koca said two people killed in Elâzığ had suffered heart attacks.

Thirty buildings collapsed in the two provinces, according to the environment minister, Murat Kurum. People were being moved to student accommodation and a sports centre amid freezing temperatures.

Elâzığ’s governor, Çetin Oktay Kaldırım, told the Turkish television station NTV that a fire broke out in a building in Sivrice, near the epicentre, but was quickly brought under control.

The interior minister, Süleyman 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 had affected not only Turkey but also Syria, Georgia and Armenia. Different earthquake monitoring centres frequently give differing estimates.

Turkey sits on top of two major faultlines and earthquakes occur frequently.

Two strong earthquakes struck north-west Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people. A magnitude 6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elaziğ in 2010.

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