UPDATES DEATH TOLL
By Havva Kara Aydin, Ali Murat Alhas and Davut Demircan
ANKARA (AA) - At least 19 people were killed and more than 750 injured Friday after a deadly earthquake rattled eastern Turkey, according to authorities.
The 6.8-magnitude quake hit eastern Elazig province at 8.55 p.m. local time, with its epicenter in Sivrice district, along with neighboring provinces and countries including Syria and Georgia.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said 782 others were injured; 433 in Elazig, 222 in Malatya, 37 in Kahramanmaras, 34 in Sanliurfa, 31 in Diyarbakir, 19 in Adiyaman, 6 in Batman.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced the updated death toll, saying: "We have approximately 30 residents under the wreckage in Elazig."
The search and rescue operations are continuing and the death toll could rise, said Koca.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the injured were transferred to hospitals and facilities have been opened to serve those who have been affected.
Five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Doganyol district, Malatya were destroyed, said Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum.
He also cautioned residents not to go into damaged buildings.
The AFAD said 118 aftershocks, with magnitudes ranging from 2.7 to 5.4, were felt following the powerful quake.
It said hundreds of tents, beds and thousands of blankets were dispatched to cities.
The Turkish Red Crescent announced a crisis desk was set up in Ankara, and rescue teams dispatched to quake areas. Mobile kitchens, which serve up to 5,000 people, were sent to the region.
National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the army was ready to step into action if necessary.
Turkish parliamentary speaker Mustafa Sentop said: "Our biggest hope is that the death toll does not rise."
Davut Gul, governor of Gaziantep province, said there were no life or material loss, according to initial reports and offered condolences to locals.
Sanliurfa Governor Abdullah Erin said the situation did not look dire, according to the initial reports, and the disaster agency stepped into action right after the quake.
Tuncay Sonel, the governor of Tunceli province, said the quake was felt in his province but it did not cause heavy damage as authorities observed no casualties.
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) President Mustafa Akinci and Prime Minister Ersin Tatar offered condolences to Turks.
Meanwhile, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias condoles with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and said Athens is ready to help Ankara.
The quake was also felt in other provinces including Adana, Osmaniye, Tunceli and Hatay. In addition, northern Syrian regions including Idlib, Azaz, Al-Bab, Jarabulus, Afrin and Tal Abyad also felt tremors.
This is not the first quake to hit Turkey in 2020. A 5.4-magnitude quake jolted western province of Manisa on Wednesday. And Ankara was rattled by a 4.5-magnitude quake Thursday.
A total of 51 people were killed in 2010 when a 6.0-magnitude quake hit Elazig province.