Rescue teams in eastern Turkey are racing against the clock in search for survivors after a powerful earthquake killed at least 21 people and injured more than a thousand, according to emergency officials.
The magnitude-6.8 quake hit the small lakeside town of Sivrice in the eastern Turkish province of Elazig on Friday evening.
Turkey’s disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD) said 17 of the casualties were in Elazig, with the remaining four were in the neighbouring province of Malatya.
At least 30 people were missing after the quake, feared to be buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
AFAD said five people were pulled out alive from the rubble in Elazig on Saturday, but fear the death toll may continue to rise.
Eray Ernek described to AFP how he was watching television when the quake took place. “I was on the sofa and then fell on the floor. My sleeping father was woken up.”
“After we found a way out, we broke the door and got out. We saw other houses had collapsed,” said Ernek.
Television footage showed the extent of the damage caused in several towns and cities around the epicenter of the quake.
AFAD said 28 rescue teams were working around the clock under the threat of aftershocks. More than 1,300 personnel from 39 of Turkey’s 81 provinces were sent to the disaster site.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to all measures were being taken to “ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and was felt in many provinces is overcome with the least amount of loss.”
Sports centers, schools, mosques and guest houses were opened to house victims of the quake, with tents, beds and blankets being distributed as temperatures drop across the country.
Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines meaning the country is prone to earthquakes. In 2010, a magnitude-6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig.
A devastating 7.4-magnitude earthquake also hit Turkey in 1999, leaving 18,000 people dead, including 1,000 in the country’s largest city and popular tourist destination Istanbul.