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Dozens dead from earthquake in Turkey

By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN
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Quake spot in seismic triangle
  • Pre-dawn quake kills at least 51, local official says
  • 5.8-magnitude quake struck in country's Kovancilar district
  • Rescue workers, aid groups en route to area that was struck
  • Turkey is periodically pummeled by deadly earthquakes

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- A pre-dawn earthquake collapsed homes and killed more than 50 people in a mountainous region of southeastern Turkey Monday, government officials said.

About 71 others were injured when the earthquake struck at 4:32 a.m., according to officials. The U.S. Geological Survey registered the quake at magnitude 5.9, while the Turkish earthquake monitoring center listed it as a 6.0.

The quake struck in Elazig province, with the village of Okcular the worst hit, according to Ozcan Yalcin, the press secretary for the province's governor. Most of the mud brick homes in the village were destroyed, he said. Villagers had buried 15 of the people that died, he added.

"The people are sad but they are calm," Yalcin said. "They lost relatives and loved ones, they are crying, but all of their needs are being met by the state."

The quake killed 51 people, the office of the Prime Minister and Crisis Center in Elazig province said. The death toll revises an earlier report by Turkey Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek that at least 57 people had died. There was no further detail on the discrepancy.

Dozens of aftershocks, ranging up to magnitude 5.5, shook the region in the hours after the quake.

Video: Turkey earthquake
Video: Turkey earthquake aftermath
Quake-hit region
  • Turkey
  • Earthquakes

"According to the information that we got from the technical teams on the ground, there shouldn't be anyone left in the rubble by now. But the search and rescue operations are continuing," said the deputy governor of Elazig, Mehmet Ali Saglam.

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"Most of the houses that were demolished in the villages are not cement houses. ... Other buildings, such as schools, were not destroyed," the deputy governor said.

"The Red Crescent is there. They are giving all kinds of help to the people. They are setting up tents. The weather is cloudy, 8 to 10 degrees Celsius (46 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit)."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on television said: "Teams from the state mass housing project have also been sent to the area to study how to rebuild the area in different methods."

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Monday's quake occurred near the meeting point of two major fault lines, geologists said.

The Northern Anatolian Fault and East Anatolian Fault juxtapose each other, in an area where other fault lines exist, said Okan Tuysuz, a professor of geology at Istanbul Technical University.

"The Anatolian plate, which is surrounded by these two different fault systems, moves every year 2.5 centimeters westwards," Tuysuz said. "And the movement of the Anatolian plate westwards creates different fault systems in this area. And the earthquake occurred in such a complex geological environment."

Turkey is periodically pummeled by deadly earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful earthquakes hit heavily populated areas near Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, killing at least 20,000 people.