, ANKARA, Nov 10 – A 5.6 magnitude earthquake killed at least five people in eastern Turkey, less than three weeks after a massive quake killed more than 600 in the same area, a government official said.
“Twenty people were found alive and five were dead,” Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay was quoted as saying in televised remarks after visiting the scene.
More people were believed to have been trapped under the rubble but Atalay did not give an exact number of the missing.
Television footage showed rescue teams trying to find possible survivors.
The quake occurred at 1923 GMT, with the epicentre in the Edremit district, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the Van province, according to the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory. The USGS put the magnitude at 5.6, after having earlier put it at 5.7.
The quake collapsed 25 buildings, 22 of which were empty, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said from the scene.
“Search and rescue operations are continuing in three buildings,” he added.
The quake sowed fresh panic among residents.
Two of the collapsed buildings were hotels, private NTV television said. One six-storey hotel in the Van city centre was mostly occupied by journalists and teams from the Turkish Red Crescent.
The number of people in the hotels was not known, which was why the toll might rise.
The US Geological Survey said the epicentre was 16 kilometres (10 miles) south of Van, with its depth given as five kilometres (3.1 miles).
Nine planes carrying almost 300 rescuers were dispatched to the quake region, national television said, as rescue operations were carried out with mechanical diggers under arc lights.
The region bore the brunt of the deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake on October 23, which killed more than 600 people and injured more than 4,150.
Experts, speaking to television stations, said a moderate quake of 5.6 magnitude would not cause any human or material loss under normal circumstances, adding the extent of the current quake could grow because of the fact that the buildings which were damaged in the previous quake were not entirely emptied.
“It would be premature to say if it is an aftershock or an earthquake,” Kandilli Observatory Director Professor Mustafa Erdik told NTV. But in a later announcement, the observatory said it was a separate quake.
In the previous quake, Turkey accepted help from dozens of countries, including Israel and Armenia, both states with which it has frosty relations.
That tremor destroyed many homes in Van province near Iran, including more than 5,000 in the regional capital of Van, boosting claims of non-respect for building standards.
Turkey is earthquake-prone due to being crossed by several fault lines.
In 1999, two strong quakes in the heavily-populated and industrialised regions of northwest Turkey left some 20,000 dead.