5.9 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey -- An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 hit western Turkey on Thursday, and there were reports of casualties and damaged buildings in one town.

The Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory said the quake in Kutahya province occurred at 23:15 p.m. and was centered near the town of Simav. AHaber TV said there were casualties at a hospital in Simav, but did not say how many. Ambulances reportedly ferried the injured for treatment.

At least six aftershocks, the strongest with a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 shook Kutahya, the observatory said.

NTV television cited a resident in Simav as saying some buildings were damaged. Most of the town was without electricity. The quake toppled the minaret of a mosque in the town of Pazarcik, TGRT television said.

Hatice Unlu, a resident of the town of Tavsanli in Kutahya province, told TV8 channel that the temblor caused great panic.

"Furniture swayed and plates fell on the floor. I struggled to save my computer before rushing out," Unlu said. "We fear to return home."

Idris Bal, a lawmaker who was in Kutahya, said he experienced the quake at the fifth floor of an apartment building.

"It was so strong that we could not even move in the first few seconds," Bal told NTV television. "People are waiting in their cars now."

The quake was felt as far as the Aegean city of Izmir, northwestern city of Bursa, Istanbul and the city of Edirne, close to the Greek and Bulgarian borders.

Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is crossed by faultlines.

In March last year, a 6.0-magnitude quake knocked down stone and mud-brick houses in five villages in Elazig province in eastern Turkey, killing 51 people. In 2003, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake killed 177 people in the southeastern city of Bingol, including 84 children whose school dormitory collapsed.

In 1999, two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.