June 22, 2021

Rescuers comb rubble after earthquake in Turkey; 22 confirmed dead

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A magnitude-6.8 earthquake in eastern Turkey killed at least 22 people, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Saturday, as rescuers searched the rubble for survivors. At least 18 people were killed in Elazig, the epicentre of the quake, Soylu told a press conference in the city. Four were killed in neighbouring Malatya.

Flanked by the ministers of health and urban planning, Soylu said 39 people had been rescued and 22 more were believed to be trapped under the rubble, although there was no exact figure for the number of people missing.

Minutes later, broadcaster CNN Turk showed live footage of a woman being pulled alive from the rubble in Elazig's Mustafapasa neighbourhood.

Soylu said a total of 398 aftershocks had been felt, one of them with a magnitude of 5.1, since the quake hit at 8:55 pm (1755 GMT) on Friday.

A total of 382 people are being treated in hospitals, 34 of whom are in intensive care, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

The national disaster agency AFAD had initially said more than 1,000 people had been admitted to hospitals.

Five buildings collapsed in Elazig city centre and several others were damaged, Environmental and Urban Planning Minister Murat Kurum said, warning locals not to enter damaged buildings.

Meanwhile, a damaged prison in the neighbouring city of Adiyaman was being evacuated and a total of 814 inmates were being sent to prisons in surrounding cities, state news agency Anadolu quoted the Justice Ministry as saying.

Earlier in the morning, TRT showed dramatic footage of dozens of rescue teams working in silence on top of a multi-storey building that had collapsed in Elazig, a city of nearly 600,000 people.

The broadcast showed one elderly woman being rescued as onlookers watched in shock. "My daughter is there too," she said, pointing to the collapsed building. She was immediately taken away by ambulance.

Rescue teams were using sensors to listen in to the rubble while also using excavators and sniffer dogs to reach lower storeys of the building, a rescue member said.

The epicentre of the quake was located in the Sivrice district of Elazig. The quake, which occurred on the Eastern Anatolian fault line, was felt in several surrounding cities and in Iraq and Syria's north, Anadolu reported.

AFAD and the Turkish Red Crescent have sent rescue teams and aid, including food and blankets, to quake-hit areas, and Turkey's Defence Ministry said it had dispatched planes to deliver aid and assess the damage together with drones.

The army has sent soldiers to the affected region while AFAD teams have started distributing tents to residents in rural Elazig, CNN Turk reported.

AFAD put the local temperature at minus 8 degrees Celcius. Many locals took to social media to offer help and shelter.

Foreign political leaders expressed their condolences, among them EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Turkey has suffered devastating earthquakes in the past, including one near Istanbul in 1999 which killed more than 17,000 people in the greater region.