Death toll climbs from quake in Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities announced Saturday that the number of fatalities had risen to 22 with close to 1,000 others wounded following an earthquake that rocked southern and southeastern parts of the country, most of them Kurdish-majority cities.
A 6.8 magnitude earthquake was centered in the town of Sivrice, in Elazig province, causing buildings to collapse for miles around. Tremors were felt in neighboring countries, including in northeastern Syria.
Elazig witnessed at least 10 aftershocks, the strength of which exceeded 4 degrees on the Richter scale, with the total estimated to have reached 148.
After going to the area with other ministers to oversee rescue operations, Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca said that 13 people had died in Elazig and five others in the neighboring province of Malatya.
Later, state-run media Anadolu Agency reported that the death toll had risen to 19.
Interior Minister Suleiman Solyu said that rescue teams were searching for people under the rubble of collapsed buildings. He noted that more than 500 people had been injured.
Solyu described the quake as a “level three” event, according to the country's emergency response plan. This means aid would be provided at the national level, not at the international level.
Authorities warned people not to return to the damaged buildings because of the possibility of more injuries from additional collapses. They have also said that beds, blankets, and tents are being sent to the area as overnight temperatures drop below zero.
Official media in both Syria and Iran reported that the earthquake was felt in both countries. Local Lebanese media reported that the quake was also felt in Beirut and Tripoli.
Turkey has a history of strong earthquakes. In August 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the city of Izmit in the west of the country, 90 km southeast of Istanbul, reportedly displacing about 500,000 people.
In 2011, a 7.1 earthquake occurred in the Kurdish city of Van, on Turkey's eastern border with Iran, killing close to 600 people.
Editing by John J. Catherine