OKCULAR, Turkey - Hundreds of earthquake survivors huddled in aid tents and around bonfires yesterday in eastern Turkey, seeking relief from the winter cold after a strong temblor knocked down stone and mud brick houses in five villages, killing 51 people.
The damage appeared worst in the Kurdish village of Okcular, which was almost razed. At least 15 of the village’s 900 residents were killed, the Elazig governor’s office said, and the air was thick with dust from crumpled homes and barns.
The predawn earthquake caught many residents as they slept, shaking the area’s poorly made buildings into piles of rubble.
Panicked survivors fled into the narrow streets of this village perched on a hill in front of snow-covered mountains, with some people climbing out of windows to escape.
“I tried to get out of the door but it wouldn’t open. I came out of the window and started helping my neighbors,’’ Ali Riza Ferhat of Okcular told NTV television. “We removed six bodies.’’
The Kandilli seismology center said the 6.0-magnitude quake hit at 4:32 a.m. near the village of Basyurt in a remote, sparsely populated area of Elazig Province.
The region is 340 miles east of Ankara, the capital. The US Geological Survey listed the quake at 5.9 magnitude.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kandilli Observatory’s director, Mustafa Erdik, urged residents not to enter any damaged homes, warning they could topple from aftershocks that Erdik said could last for days.
More than 100 aftershocks measuring up to 5.5 magnitude shook the region yesterday.