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Earthquake death toll rises to 31 in Turkey

The death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck eastern Turkey has risen to 31, as rescue efforts continue two days after the natural disaster.

A magnitude 6.8 quake hit the small lakeside town of Sivrice, in Turkey’s Elazig Province, on Friday evening. It also affected neighboring cities.

The Turkish disaster and emergency management agency, AFAD, announced on Sunday that 31 people had died, the majority in Elazig but at least four in nearby Malatya. Over 1,600 people have also been injured.

Rescuers scrambled all of Saturday and continued searches into Sunday to save people trapped under the rubble. The latest number of the individuals rescued was 45, according to AFAD.

Nearly 80 buildings collapsed while 645 were heavily damaged in Elazig and Malatya, the agency said in a statement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised Saturday that Turkey’s housing agency, TOKI, would “do whatever is necessary and make sure no one is left without a home.” He attended the funeral of a woman and her son in Elazig on Saturday, and later visited Malatya after canceling a speech in Istanbul.

In 2010, Elazig Province was struck by a 6-magnitude earthquake, claiming the lives of a total of 51 people. In October 2011, an earthquake jolted the eastern city of Van and the town of Ercis, killing at least 523 people.

And on August 17, 1999, a very strong earthquake hit the western city of Izmit, 90 kilometers southeast of Istanbul, killing 17,000 people.

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