At Least 22 Dead, 1,000 Hurt After Strong Earthquake Strikes Eastern Turkey

Tremor felt throughout the region and as far south as Israel

Rescuers are seen in outside a collapsed building after an earthquake in Elazig, Turkey, January 24, 2020
Ihlas News Agency (IHA) via REUTERS

A powerful earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Friday, killing at least 22 people, with more than 1,000 injured, officials said.

The magnitude 6.8 quake shook Elazig province, about 550 km (340 miles) east of the capital Ankara, and was followed by dozens of aftershocks.

Sixteen people were killed in Elazig and four more in the neighboring province of Malatya, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said early on Saturday. 

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said emergency workers were searching for 30 people under the rubble.

State broadcaster TRT showed footage of dozens of workers in the dawn light using shovels to dig out a partly collapsed building in Elazig. Windows were smashed and balconies from at least four stories had crashed to the ground.

Teams worked through the night with their hands, drills and mechanical diggers to remove bricks and plaster from the ruins in the city where the overnight temperature dipped to -8 degrees Celsius.

"Our houses collapsed ... we cannot go inside them," said a 32-year-old man from the town of Sivrice, epicentre of the quake which struck shortly before 9 P.M.

"In our village some people lost their lives. I hope God will help us," said the man, who gave only his first name, Sinasi. "Our animals died. Our families gathered around the fire to spend the night, covered with blankets," Sinasi said as he and a relative tried to warm themselves by a small fire.

State media in neighboring 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.

Residents in Israel also reported feeling the tremor. The seismology division at the Geophysical Institute of Israel recorded the event as significant. There were no reports of casualties or property damage.

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 left homeless.

In 2011 an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and town of Ercis, some 100 km (60 miles) to the north, killing at least 523 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.