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Four dead after 6.8 magnitude earthquake strikes Turkey

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A map shows the epicenter of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey o
A map shows the epicenter of the earthquake that eastern Turkey on Friday.   -  
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At least four people have died after an earthquake struck eastern Turkey, officials in the country have told local media.

The tremblor, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 struck at around 8:55 p.m. local time (12:55 p.m. ET) in eastern Elazig province, the country's emergency management agency said.

It was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency added.

The quake's epicenter was near the small town of Sivrice, which has a population of around 4,000, according to the United States Geological Survey. The larger town of Elazig, which has a population of 300,000, is around 25 miles away.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said two of the victims were killed in Elazig province and two in nearby Malatya province, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

He had earlier told NTV television that rescuers were trying to reach survivors after a four or five-story building collapsed in the town of Maden in Elazig. Around five buildings collapsed in Sivrice, where two people were hurt, he said.

Pictures and video footage apparently taken in both Elazig and Sivrice and posted to social media, showed collapsed buildings and rescuers searching through rubble. NBC News was unable to verify this footage.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters troops were on standby if needed.

Elsewhere, Mikail Suluk, the mayor of the town of Poturce to the south of the epicenter, told NBC News that around 100 buildings had collapsed in the town, although no casualties had been reported.

Estimates about the size of the earthquake varied slightly. The Kandilli seismology center in Istanbul said the quake measured 6.5., while the U.S. Geological Survey gave the preliminary magnitude as 6.7.

It said Syria, Georgia and Armenia were also affected along with Turkey. Rumbles were also felt over 800 miles away in Israel.

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