Turkey quake kills at least 22, rescuers dig for survivors
The death toll from a powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey reached 22 on Jan. 25, as rescuers searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
The magnitude 6.8 quake late on Jan. 24 shook Elazığ province, about 550 km (340 miles) east of the capital Ankara, and was followed by more than 390 aftershocks, 14 of which had magnitudes over 4.
Eighteen people were killed in Elazığ and four more in the neighboring province of Malatya, said Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Presidency (AFAD), adding 1,103 others were injured and in hospitals in the region. It said rescue efforts were underway at three different sites in Elazığ.
Turkish broadcasters showed footage of rescuers pulling people out from under the debris, some around 17 hours after the quake.
Speaking in Elazığ, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said an estimated 22 people were still trapped under debris. AFAD later said 40 people had been rescued so far.
A woman was rescued on Jan. 25 from the rubble of a collapsed house 17 hours after the earthquake.
The live broadcast of rescue efforts showed that a female rescue worker was speaking over the phone with the trapped woman, identified as Azize, in a bid to calm her during the rescue operation.
Key facts about the deadly earthquake:
Rescue teams worked through the night with their hands, drills and mechanical diggers to remove bricks and plaster from collapsed buildings in Elazığ, where the overnight temperature dipped to -8 degrees Celsius.
Speaking alongside Soylu, Health Minster Fahrettin Koca said 128 wounded people were receiving treatment and that 34 of those were in intensive care, but not in critical conditions. He said additional medical centers would be set up if necessary.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan canceled his plans in Istanbul on Jan. 25 and went to Elazığ to inspect the rescue efforts. He also attended a funeral for a woman and her son killed in the quake, which he described as a "test" for Turkey.
"We are doing everything we can as the state and nation, and we will continue to do so. Our efforts at all rescue sites will continue," he said at the funeral, adding state house developer TOKİ would make sure no one was left "hungry or in the open."
State media in Syria and Iran both reported the earthquake was felt in those countries. Local media in Lebanon said the cities of Beirut and Tripoli also felt the quake.
On Jan. 24 night, Soylu described it as a "Level 3" incident according to the country's emergency response plan, meaning it called for a national response but did not require international help.
He said Turkey, which straddles seismic faultlines and is prone to earthquakes, had learned lessons from previous disasters which helped it address Jan. 24's incident.
Drones were deployed in search operations and to communicate between provinces.
Emergency teams and rescue equipment were sent from other provinces to Elazığ, with thousands of rescuers and medical personnel on the ground to look for and help survivors. Flag-carrier Turkish Airlines started additional flights to Elazığ from Ankara and Istanbul to help transport rescuers.
AFAD warned residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the danger of further aftershocks. It said beds, blankets, and tents were being sent to the area, where some people sheltered in sports gymnasiums. Turkey's Red Crescent (Kızılay) also sent food, heaters and other materials to the region.
"I wish God's mercy to our brothers who lost their lives in the earthquake, and urgent healing for those who were injured," Erdoğan said on Twitter on Jan. 24.
Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum, who spoke alongside Soylu on Jan. 25, said five buildings in Elazığ had collapsed in the quake and there were several heavily damaged structures.
Soylu also said on Jan. 25 a prison in the nearby Adiyaman province was being evacuated due to damage to the building. Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said the inmates were being transferred to prisons in three nearby provinces.
Turkey has a history of powerful earthquakes. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the western city of Izmit, 90 km (55 miles) southeast of Istanbul. About 500,000 people were made homeless.
In 2011, an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Erciş, some 100 km (60 miles) to the north, killing at least 523 people.