Turkey's President Erdogan slams earthquake 'propaganda' as death toll rises

Turkey's President Erdogan slams earthquake 'propaganda' as death toll rises
Turkey's President Erdogan slams earthquake 'propaganda' as death toll rises

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck eastern Turkey has risen to 35, officials said on Sunday, as rescue efforts continued.

The magnitude 6.8 quake hit on Friday evening, with its epicentre in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in Elazig province, but it also affected neighbouring cities and countries.

We don't have a safe place to stay right now

Emre Gocer, local resident

The Turkish government's disaster and emergency management agency (Afad) said 35 people had been killed, the majority in Elazig, but at least four in nearby Malatya. A further 1,607 were injured.

Rescuers scrambled all of Saturday and searched Sunday to rescue people alive from under the rubble.

Nearly 80 buildings collapsed while 645 were heavily damaged in Elazig and Malatya, the agency said in a statement.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised Saturday that Turkey's housing agency Toki would "do whatever is necessary and make sure no one is left without a home".

He attended the funeral of a woman and her son in Elazig on Saturday, later visiting Malatya after cancelling a speech in Istanbul.

He warned people against repeating "negative" hearsay that the country is unprepared for earthquakes.

"Do not listen to rumours, do not listen to anyone's negative, contrary propaganda, and know that we are your servants," Mr Erdogan said.

The large earthquake was followed by 398 aftershocks, the strongest of them with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1, the disaster agency said.

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 earthquake was very severe. We desperately ran out [of our home]," local resident Emre Gocer told the state-run Anadolu news agency as he sheltered with his family at a sports hall in Sivrice. "We don't have a safe place to stay right now."

While visiting Sivrice and the city of Elazig, Mr Erdogan promised state support for those affected by the disaster.

"We will not leave anyone in the open," he said.

Updated: January 26, 2020 02:06 PM

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