[UPDATE] Death toll in earthquake hitting Turkey’s east climbs to 41

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MAP: Hürriyet

A powerful earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Friday, killing at least 41 people and damaging buildings near the epicenter of the tremor, which was felt in several neighboring countries, Reuters reported.

The magnitude 6.8 quake hit Elazığ province, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) east of the capital, Ankara, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks.

According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), at least 45 people were rescued from the debris, while 1,607 were injured due to the earthquake. A total of 76 buildings have collapsed, and 642 were damaged heavily.

The quake struck in a remote, relatively sparsely populated area and it could take some time for authorities to establish the full extent of the damage.

AFAD officials warned residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the danger of further aftershocks. It said beds, blankets and tents were being sent to the area, where the overnight temperature was below 0 degrees Celsius.

State media in Syria and Iran both reported the earthquake was felt in those countries. Local media in Lebanon said the cities of Beirut and Tripoli also felt the quake.

Turkey has a history of powerful earthquakes. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the western city of İzmit, 90 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of İstanbul.

About 500,000 people were made homeless. In 2011 an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Erciş, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the north, killing at least 523 people.

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