51 dead after earthquake in eastern Turkey - officials (UPDATED)
Rescuers continued to search for survivors after a powerful earthquake hit eastern Turkey early Monday morning, dpa reported.
Turkish officials put the death toll from the quake at 51, down from an initial figure of 57. Close to 40 people were injured in the earthquake, which struck a region near the Turkish city of Elazig, some 550 kilometers east of the capital, Ankara.
The quake, which registered 6.0 on the Richter scale, occurred at 0432 local time (0232 GMT) and sent people running out into the streets.
Most of the damage occurred in several villages near Elazig, where rescue workers were still searching through the rubble of destroyed homes and buildings.
Turkish television showed scenes of collapsed mud-brick homes and minarets in the earthquake zone. Among the dead were several children.
Okcular, a village where 17 people were killed, appeared to have been hit particularly hard.
"The village is totally flattened," a local administrator told private channel NTV.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the poor construction of homes in the area for the many deaths and said he has instructed the Turkish state's construction agency to build earthquake-proof homes for the victims.
The Turkish Red Crescent was sending emergency supplies to the area and several government officials from Ankara were also on their way.
Turkey sits on top of several seismic fault lines and is considered especially earthquake prone. Some 18,000 Turks were killed in 1999 when a powerful quake hit Kocaeli area, on the outskirts of Istanbul.