ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish emergency officials said the death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked the country’s east climbed to 20 people Saturday, with more than 1,000 people injured.
Rescue workers were continuing to search for some 30 people buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Elazig province and neighboring Malatya, said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. He warned that the death toll could rise.
Emergency workers and security forces distributed tents, beds and blankets as overnight temperatures dropped below freezing in the affected areas. Mosques, schools, sports halls and student dormitories were opened for hundreds who left their homes after the quake.
The 6.8-magnitude quake hit Friday at 8:55 p.m. local time (1755 GMT) at a depth of 6.7 kilometers (around 4 miles) near the town of Sivrice in Elazig, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said. It was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1.
At least five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Malatya province were destroyed, said Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum. AFAD said in a statement that 16 people were killed in Elazig and four in Malatya. Another 1,015 were hurt.
AFAD said 28 rescue teams were working around the clock.
“Our biggest hope is that the death toll does not rise,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said.
Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.
A magnitude 6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.