A strong earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 6, hit eastern Turkey on Monday, killing at least 41 people and knocking down houses in at least six small villages, the government said.
The quake affected villages near the town of Kovancilar, toppling stone or mud-brick homes and minarets of mosques, officials and media reports said. The worst-hit area was the village of Okcular where some 17 people were reported killed and homes crumbled into piles of dirt.
The government’s crisis centere said around 100 people were also injured in the quake, which occurred at 4:32 a.m. (0232 GMT) in Elazig province, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) east of Ankara, the capital.
It caught many people in their sleep. It was centred near the village of Basyurt, and was followed by more than 30 aftershocks, the strongest measuring 5.5, the Kandilli seismology center said.
Emergency workers were trying to rescue four people from debris, Gov. Muammer Erol said. CNN-Turk television said the dead included four young sisters trapped in the rubble.
“Everything has been knocked down, there is not a stone in place,” said Yadin Apaydin, administrator for the village of Yukari Kanatli, where he said at least three villagers died.
Authorities blocked access to Okcular village, to facilitate the entry and exit of ambulances and rescue teams on the village’s narrow roads. Relatives rushed to the village for news of their loved ones.
“The village is totally flattened,” Okcular’s administrator Hasan Demirdag told private NTV television.
Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, much of which lies on top of the North Anatolian fault. In 1999, two powerful earthquakes struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.
In 2007, an earthquake measuring 5.7 damaged buildings in Elazig, briefly trapping a woman under debris. In 2003, an earthquake measuring 6.4 magnitude collapsed a school dormitory in the neighboring province of Bingol province, killing 83 children. The collapse was blamed on poor construction.