A strong, pre-dawn earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6 on Richter Scale struck eastern Turkey on Monday, killing 51 people as it knocked down stone and mud-brick houses and minarets in at least six villages, said the government.
The earthquake surprised many people as they slept, crumbling buildings into piles of rubble. Panicked survivors fled into the narrow village streets, some climbing out of windows, as more than 50 aftershocks measuring up to 5.5 and 5.3 magnitude rattled the region. The Kandilli seismology centre said the quake hit at 4:32 a.m. near the village of Basyurt in Elazig province, about 550 km east of Ankara, the capital.
The government initially put the death toll at 57 but later lowered it to 51. It gave no explanation for the discrepancy. In addition to the deaths, about 34 people were being treated for injuries, said Turkey's crisis centre.
The worst-hit area was the village of Okcular, where 17 people were killed. As relatives rushed in for news of their loved ones, authorities blocked off the area so ambulances and rescue teams could manoeuvre on the village's narrow roads. Residents lit fires to keep warm in the winter cold.
“The village is totally flattened,” a resident said.
“Everything has been knocked down, there is not a stone in place,” said a resident of another village.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kandilli Observatory's director, Mustafa Erdik, urged residents not to enter any damaged home