A magnitude 6.8 earthquake rocked a sparsely-populated part of eastern Turkey on Friday, killing at least 20 people, injuring more than 1015 and leaving some 30 trapped in the wreckage of toppled buildings, Turkish officials said.
The earthquake struck at 1755 GMT, 8:55 pm local time, near the town of Sivrice in eastern Elazig province, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said.
Rescue teams from neighbouring provinces were dispatched to the affected areas, working in the dark with floodlights in the freezing cold, and Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said troops were on standby to help.
Hundreds of residents were left homeless or with damaged homes.
TV footage showed rescuers pull out one injured person from the rubble of a collapsed building in the district of Gezin, in the eastern Elazig province.
Around 30 were believed to be trapped inside collapsed structures in Elazig province, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
Some 30 buildings had collapsed from the quake in the two provinces, according to Murat Kurum, the environment minister.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that all measures were being taken to "ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and was felt in many provinces is overcome with the least amount of loss."
Turkey agencies lend hand after earthquake
Turkish agencies, commercial outlets and rescue teams were quick to extend a helping hand after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit eastern Elazig province late Friday.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), Turkish Red Crescent, National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE), Search and Rescue Association (AKUT) and emergency services dispatched rescue teams, beds, blankets and mobile kitchens to the region immediately after the quake .
The AFAD said hundreds of tents, beds and thousands of blankets were transported and 28 rescue teams were activated to work on a 24-hour, seven-day basis. Also, trucks loaded with humanitarian aid were sent to the region.
Hundreds of rescue personnel from different provinces were transferred to areas jolted by the natural disaster.
The Turkish Red Crescent sent catering, communication vehicles and three large trucks serving as mobile kitchens were dispatched. Ambulances and planes were ready to help, said Health Minister Koca.
Communication companies, including Turkcell, Vodafone and Turk Telekom, announced residents in quake-hit areas were provided with free internet and communication services.
Turkish Airlines said it would conduct additional flights to Elazig province in a bid to ease transportation to the region.
In addition, mosques and schools opened their doors to residents so they could spend the night without worrying about the safety at home. Gyms and dormitories affiliated with the Youth and Sports Ministry also announced it would welcome residents.
People're afraid to go indoors
People in Elazig whose homes were damaged or were too afraid to go indoors were being moved to student dormitories or sports centres amid freezing conditions.
Elazig Governor Cetin Oktay Kaldirim told NTV television that a fire broke out in a building in Sivrice, near the epicentre, but was quickly brought under control.
Interior Minister Soylu was at a meeting on earthquake preparedness when the quake struck.
"We are hoping we will not have more casualties," Soylu said.
"It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside," 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the city of Elazig, told AFP news agency.
"We will spend the coming days in a farmhouse outside the city," she said.
Troops on standby
Defence Minister Akar said troops were on standby to help if they are needed.
"We have sent four teams to the quake region," Recep Salci of Turkey's Search and Rescue Association told AFP.
"We have news of collapsed buildings, and preparing more teams in case of need."
Zekeriya Gunes, 68, a resident of Elazig city, said a building 200 metres down his street had collapsed but he did not know whether it was inhabited.
"Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary," he said.
The Kandilli seismology centre in Istanbul said the quake measured 6.5, while the US Geological Survey gave the preliminary magnitude as 6.7, and said the quake-affected not only Turkey but also Syria, Georgia, and Armenia.
Prone to quakes
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 country's largest city Istanbul.
In September, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul, causing residents to flee buildings in the economic capital.
Another magnitude-6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010. [Source: TRTWorld and agencies]