3 recent quakes not linked
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OKCULAR, Turkey -- Hundreds of earthquake survivors in eastern Turkey huddled in aid tents and around bonfires Monday, 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 provincial governor's office said, and the air was thick with dust from crumpled homes and barns.
Besides the deaths, 34 people were being treated for injuries, Turkey's crisis center said.
The pre-dawn 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.
The Kandilli seismology center said the 6.0-magnitude quake hit at 4:32 a.m. local time (9:32 p.m. EST Sunday) near the village of Basyurt, in a remote and sparsely populated region of Elazig province. It is 340 miles east of Ankara, the capital. The U.S. 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 damaged homes. More than 100 aftershocks measuring up to 5.5 magnitude shook the region Monday.
Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, much of which lies atop two main fault lines. In 1999, two powerful quakes struck in the northwest, killing about 18,000 people.
Monday's quake in eastern Turkey followed deadly recent temblors in Haiti and Chile, but Bernard Doft, seismologist for the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute in Utrecht, said there was no direct connection between the three. "These events are too far apart to be of direct influence to each other," he said.
Richard Luckett, a seismologist from the British Geological Survey, said there has not been a spike in global seismic activity. "If there was a big increase in the number of magnitude 6.0s in the past decade, we would know it because we would see it in the statistics," he said. "We haven't seen an increase in 7.0s either."
He said scientists often see strong earthquakes, but they don't get reported because the damage or death toll is minimal. According to USGS data, the world is hit by about 134 earthquakes a year in the 6.0- to 6.9-magnitude range -- or about two a week.
First Published March 9, 2010 12:00 am