Magnitude 5.3 earthquake hits eastern Turkey’s Elazığ

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 Scared locals stand outside their homes after the earthquake, in Elazığ, Turkey, Dec. 27, 2020. (DHA Photo)
Scared locals stand outside their homes after the earthquake, in Elazığ, Turkey, Dec. 27, 2020. (DHA Photo)

An earthquake of magnitude 5.3 hit eastern Turkey’s Elazığ province early Sunday.

The earthquake occurred at 9:37 a.m. local time a depth of 15.95 kilometers (9.91 miles), Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said, adding that the epicenter of the quake was the Elazığ province.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in a statement later in the day that no damages or injuries were reported in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and that rescue teams were inspecting the area.

The quake was also felt in neighboring Malatya, Adıyaman, Şanlıurfa, Mardin, Batman and Diyarbakır provinces.

AFAD said no infrastructural damages were found after an initial assessment in the province.

While the quake caused no damage, it led to a widespread panic among residents. Locals rushed outside to open areas and many refused to enter their homes in fear of aftershocks.

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Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF) and Football Federation (TFF), as well as Istanbul’s major football clubs Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray extended their well wishes to Elazığ residents in a statement.

“We pray for no damages or loss of lives in the earthquake that hit Elazığ and neighboring provinces, and extend our well wishes to all those who were affected by the tremors,” the TFF wrote.

Meanwhile, another smaller earthquake occurred on the Mediterranean Sea roughly an hour later.

According to the AFAD, a 4.2 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of southern Muğla province at 10:13 a.m. local time. No damages or injuries were reported.

Located in a seismically active region, Elazığ was rocked with a major 6.8 magnitude quake earlier this year. At least 41 people were killed and 1,607 others were injured after the Jan. 24 quake hit the city.

The disaster also left thousands displaced in the eastern province, as 58 buildings collapsed and 428 buildings were left with critical structural damage following the earthquake. The January earthquake also destroyed 315 buildings and heavily damaged 2,424 others in the neighboring Malatya province.

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Turkey is among the world’s most seismically active countries due to its position on several active fault lines, with dozens of minor earthquakes and aftershocks occurring daily.

The earthquake in Elazığ was triggered by the deadly East Anatolian fault line, stretching some 650 kilometers (403.9 miles) from eastern Turkey’s highlands to the Mediterranean, from where it turns southward and meets the northern end of the Great Rift system separating the African and Arabian plates. The strike-slip fault was formed millions of years ago as the Anatolian plate was being pushed northwestward by the Arabian plate.

Experts noted that the line has been mostly dormant after producing a series of devastating earthquakes recorded in the 16th and 19th centuries. However, major earthquakes of significant intensity often occur in the region. In 2010, Elazığ province was hit by a magnitude 6 earthquake, killing a total of 51 people in villages in the Karakoçan district. An earthquake struck the eastern city of Van located some 350 kilometers east of the fault line in 2011 as well as the town of Erciş, some 100 kilometers to the north, killing at least 523 people.

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