51 dead in Turkey earthquake

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51 dead in Turkey earthquake

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At least 51 people have died in a strong earthquake in eastern Turkey. The magnitude six quake struck in the early hours of the morning causing people to flee their homes in panic. Thirty minor aftershocks followed.

Witnesses say people lit fires outside to keep warm as residents joined rescue workers attempting to dig survivors from the rubble.

Turkey is riddled with fault lines. The last earthquake there killed 18,000 people in 1999.

This time the affected area is sparsely populated but many homes have collapsed and it is feared the number of dead and injured will rise.

The minarets of three mosques have been toppled in villages in the area. The quake hit Basyurt in Elazig province where a Red Crescent team is coordinating the search and rescue operation.

Local residents are said to be joining convoys of ambulances in their cars helping to ferry the wounded to hospital in the town of Kovancilar.

So far 71 people have been reported injured but it is still not clear how many are unaccounted for.

The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek and three other ministers are on their way to the quake zone according to the state-run Anatolian news agency.

A crisis centre has been set up to help people in the affected area trace missing relatives as the race to find people buried alive in the rubble goes on.