ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 rocked eastern Turkey on Friday killing at least 14 people, injuring more than 300 and leaving several trapped in the wreckage of toppled buildings, Turkish officials said.
Rescue teams from neighboring provinces were dispatched to the affected areas, and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said troops were on standby to help.
TV footage showed rescuers pull out one injured person from the rubble of a collapsed building in the eastern Elazig province.
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.”
He said the ministers for the interior, health and the environment were sent to the afflicted region.
The quake struck at 1755 GMT, 8:55 p.m. local time, at a depth of 6.7 kilometers near the town of Sivrice in Elazig, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said. It was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1.
Elazig is some 750 kilometers (465 miles) east of the capital, Ankara.
AFAD said 8 people were killed in Elazig and another 6 in nearby Malatya province.
At least 315 people were injured in the two provinces.
People in Elazig whose homes were damaged or were too afraid to go indoors were being moved to student dormitories or sports center amid freezing conditions.
Elazig Governor Cetin Oktay Kaldirim told NTV television that a fire broke out in a building in Sivrice but was quickly brought under control.
Earlier, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu 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 4-5 buildings collapsed in Sivrice.
Local administrator Cuma Telceken said up to seven people are believed to be trapped inside two collapsed buildings in Maden.
Soylu was at a meeting on earthquake preparedness when the quake struck.
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, and said the quake affected not only Turkey but also Syria, Georgia and Armenia.
Different earthquake monitoring centers frequently give differing estimates.
NTV said the earthquake was felt in several Turkish provinces and sent people running outdoors in panic.
Turkey sits on top of two major fault-lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.
A magnitude 6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.