5.9 magnitude earthquake strikes northwestern Turkey

DÜZCE, Turkey (AP) — A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck a town in northwestern Turkey on Wednesday, causing damage to some buildings and widespread panic. At least 68 people were injured, most while trying to flee their homes.

The tremor was centered in the town of Gölkaya in Düzce province, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of Istanbul. The quake struck at 04:08 a.m. (0108 GMT) and was felt in Istanbul and the capital Ankara, as well as other parts of the region. Dozens of aftershocks have been reported, including one of magnitude 4.3.

The quake woke many people from their sleep and many ran from buildings in panic in the province, which experienced a deadly earthquake 23 years ago.

At least 68 people were treated in hospitals for injuries in Düzce and surrounding regions, sustained during the panic, when some people jumped from balconies or windows. A 28-year-old Afghan woman was in serious condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage, said Fahrettin Koca, the health minister.

Schools in the region were closed as a precaution.

“Although the earthquake caused damage to many buildings in Golkaya, fortunately, we did not experience any serious destruction or loss,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers from his ruling party.

A mosque in the town of Saridere, near the epicenter, was also damaged and closed, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.

In Saridere, people gathered in the streets, lighting bonfires to keep warm while others slept in their cars, the private agency DHA reported. The Turkish Red Crescent organization distributed blankets and soup.

“I was jolted awake and fell out of bed,” Saridere resident Recep Dogan was quoted as saying by DHA. “I crouched down (for safety), but when the quake continued, I jumped out the door.”

Some 800 people lost their lives in a powerful earthquake that struck Düzce on November 12, 1999. In August of that year, 17,000 people died in another strong tremor that devastated the nearby province of Kocaeli and other parts of the north-west of the country.

Officials said about 80% of the buildings in the area were rebuilt or fortified after the 1999 earthquakes, helping to minimize damage.

Turkey is located on various geological faults and registers frequent telluric movements.

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