The death toll in the earthquake that struck eastern Turkey Monday morning has risen to 57, according to officials and local news reports.
The 6.0-magnitude tremor with its epicenter located in the village of Basyurt in Elazig province, struck at 4:32 am local time at a depth of five kilometers. Until now, more than 40 aftershocks have followed the pre-dawn quake.
The tremor was also felt in the neighboring provinces of Bitlis and Diyarbakir, but most of the causalities were in the villages of Okcular, Yukari Kanatli, Kayalik, Gocmezler and Yukari Demirci.
While quake reportedly destroyed the hillside village of Okcular, it left the nearby villages badly damaged. Some 17 people were reported killed in Okcular, where up to 30 houses collapsed in the quake.
Provincial Governor Muammer Erol said that rescue and relief teams have been rushed to the affected area, where most people live in mud-brick homes built on hillsides. He added that buildings made of cement or stone suffered only minor damages.
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek has rushed to the quake-hit region, accompanied by Health Minister Recep Akdag, Housing Minister Mustafa Demir and State Minister Cevdet Yilmaz, State-run Anatolia news agency reported.
Residents in the quake affected region have been advised not to return to their damaged houses because of the continuing aftershocks. The largest of the aftershocks measured 5.1 and 5.5 on the Richter scale.
Following Monday's quake, Turkish government's disaster management agency and Turkish Red Crescent have set up tents across the affected region to provide shelter and relief to the survivors, and are distributing food and blankets.
Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is located on the the North Anatolian fault line. Though the quakes are generally minor, a strong 7.4-magnitude tremor that struck the north-western city of Izmit in August 1999 left at least 17,000 people dead.
by RTT Staff Writer
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