Last updated: March 10, 2010

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Death toll from Turkish quake climbing

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An injured woman is carried out from the rubble. The quake that struck eastern Turkey was magnitude six / EPA Source: AAP

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Flattened after suffering the worst of the devastation wrought by earthquake, the village of Okcular / EPA Source: AAP

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Earthquake shakes eastern Turkey

A powerful earthquake buried Turkish villagers as they slept in mud-brick houses, killing at least 57 and injuring dozens more.

The quake, which measured 6.0 on the Richter scale, struck at 4.32am local time (1.32pm AEST) at a depth of five kilometers, with an epicenter near the Karakocan town in Elazig province, eastern Turkey.

Rescuers struggled to dig survivors from the rubble after the tremor tore down mud-brick houses in several mountainous villages in the mainly-Kurdish area, killing whole families in their sleep.

Visiting the region, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek put the death toll at 57, adding that more than 50 people were injured.

At least four of the dead were children, official said, and nine of the injured were in critical condition.

A teenage girl in the worst-hit village of Okcular described the moment the quake hit.

Zeynep Yuksel said: "It started shaking - first slowly and then violently. I was terrified and began crying ... The cupboard fell over and then the television set exploded."

A total of 18 people perished in Okcular, a Kurdish settlement of some 900 people, nestled in the hills.

Villagers scrambled to recover any valuables from the debris, and some left for nearby towns to take shelter with relatives.

About 30 houses were destroyed in Okcular alone, Yasar Cagribay, head of a rescue team, told CNN Turk.

The villages of Yukari Kanatli, Kayalik and Gocmezler were also seriously hit.

"Villages consisting mainly of mud-brick houses have been damaged, but we have minimal damage such as cracks in buildings made of cement or stone," provincial governor Muammer Erol said.

The local hospital was inundated with the injured, the CNN Turk news channel said, adding that medical reinforcements and aid were sent.

The tremor, felt also in the neighboring provinces of Bitlis and Diyarbakir, sent residents out onto the streets in panic. They spent the night outside fearing new shocks, CNN-Turk said.

Major earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is crossed by several active fault-lines.

Two powerful tremors in the heavily populated and industrialized northwest claimed about 20,000 lives in August and November 1999.

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