At least 20 people have been killed after an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 struck eastern Turkey.
Turkish officials said more than 553 people are injured, including 11 who are in a serious condition, and around 30 were left trapped in the wreckage of toppled buildings.
Hundreds of residents were left homeless or with damaged homes and buildings collapsed in affected towns near the centre of the tremor, which was felt in several neighbouring countries.
The quake jolted Elazig province, which is around 340 miles (550km) east of the capital Ankara, and was followed by dozens of aftershocks.
Image: Residents walk on a street in Elazig following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 16 people were killed in Elazig and five more in the neighbouring province of Malatya.
He said two people suffered heart attacks and five others died in Malatya.
Meanwhile Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said emergency workers were looking for 30 people under the rubble, adding that more than 500 people were hurt.
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He described the earthquake as a “level 3” incident according to Turkey’s emergency response plan – meaning that it called for a national help response but did not require international help.
Around 30 buildings had collapsed from the quake in the two provinces, according to Environment Minister Murat Kurum.
State broadcaster TRT showed footage of police and emergency workers searching a partly collapsed building in Elazig, as well as smashed windows and balconies that had crashed to the ground.
Rescue teams could also be seen working by hand to remove bricks and plaster from the ruins.
Emergency workers used drills and mechanical diggers to clear the debris, while injured people were taken to stretchers on ambulances.
Elazig residents whose homes were damaged were being moved to student dormitories or sports centres amid freezing conditions.
Mr Soylu added that the country, which is prone to earthquakes, had learnt lessons from past disasters which helped it address Friday’s quake.
Drones were deployed in search operations and communication between provinces.
Image: More than 500 people were injured in the disaster
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that all measures were being taken to “ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and was felt in many areas is overcome with the least amount of loss”.
The quake struck at 8.55pm local time (5.55pm GMT) at a depth of 4 miles (6.7km) near the town of Sivrice in Elazig, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said.
Several aftershocks followed, the strongest with 5.4 and 5.1.
Image: Turkish officials and police work at the scene of a collapsed building in Elazig
The AFAD warned residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the risk of further aftershocks.
It said beds, blankets and tents were being sent to the area, where the overnight temperature was below 0C (32F).
Syria in Iran both reported feeling the earthquake, according to the countries’ state media.
Image: Turkish officials and police try to keep warm at the scene of a collapsed building
Turkey straddles seismic faultiness and has a history of powerful earthquakes.
In 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the western city of Izmit, around 55 miles (90km) southeast of Istanbul. Around 500,000 people were made homeless after the disaster.
And in 2011 an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Ecris, killing at least 523 people.
Source : Sky News