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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 hit eastern Turkey on Friday, killing at least 18 people, injuring hundreds and causing buildings to collapse.
Thirteen people were killed in the province of Elazig and five more in neighbouring Malatya, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said after rushing to the region with other ministers to oversee the rescue operation.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said emergency workers were searching for 30 people under the rubble, and more than 500 people were injured.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people at the scene of the quake, which had its epicentre in the small lakeside town of Sivrice, around 55km east of the capital Ankara.
"We stand by our people," Mr Erdogan said on twitter, in his first comments on the incident, which caused widespread fear.
"We are hoping we will not have more casualties," Mr Soylu told the Anadolu news agency.
"Sivrice was shaken very seriously, we have directed our rescue teams to the region."
Mr Soylu described the earthquake as a "Level 3" incident according to the country's emergency response plan, meaning that it called for a national response but did not require international help.
He said Turkey had learnt lessons from previous disasters which helped it address Friday's incident. Drones were deployed in search operations and communication between provinces.
Around 400 rescue teams were being sent to the scene of the quake.
AFAD said the earthquake struck at around 8.55pm local time (1755 GMT), and Turkish aid organisations also said they were sending teams to the area.
Turkish television showed images of people stuck in apartments rushing outside in panic, as well as a fire on the roof of one building.
Footage also showed rescue teams searching for survivors trapped in a collapsed building in a village 30km from Elazig, and two people were pulled alive from the rubble.
Turkish communications companies said they would provide residents in the quake region with internet and free phone calls after phone lines and communications infrastructure sustained damage.
The Turkish Red Crescent called on residents of Elazig to give blood following the earthquake, as local media reports suggested some of those injured had been forced to leap from balconies to escape damaged buildings.
The quake, which struck at a depth of 6.7km, was followed by at least 60 aftershocks, the strongest measuring 5.4 and 5.1 on the Richter scale.
State media in neighbouring Syria and Iran both reported the earthquake was felt in those countries. Local media in Lebanon said the cities of Beirut and Tripoli also felt the quake.
Social media users in Turkey posted videos showing buildings being shaken by the tremor.
Other users posted pictures of badly damaged buildings.
Rescue operations are ongoing in Elazig province.
The town of Sivrice, home to about 4,000 people, is situated south of Elazig city on the shores of Hazar lake. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris river.
The lake is home to a "Sunken City" where archaeologists have found artefacts dating back 4,000 years.
Turkey lies on major faultlines and is prone to earthquakes.
In 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Izmit in western Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 people dead including about 1,000 in the economic capital Istanbul.
A magnitude 6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.
Updated: January 25, 2020 03:27 AM
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