The death toll after an earthquake in south-east Turkey has reached 217 and could rise to 1,000.

Rescue teams in the cities of Van and Ercis worked through last night to free survivors from the rubble after the 7.2 magnitude quake hit yesterday afternoon.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he was most concerned about people living in rural villages who had not yet been reached.

He said: “Because the buildings are made of adobe [mudbrick] they are more vulnerable to quakes. I must say that almost all buildings in such villages are destroyed.”

The Turkish interior minister, Idris Naim Sahin, said the earthquake killed 100 in Van and 117 in Ercis.

Hundreds more are said to be injured. Sahin added that 1,090 people had been injured but hundreds were also missing.

It is said to be the most powerful earthquake in more than a decade.

Emergency service workers searched through the fallen buildings under floodlights powered by mobile generators after the electricity supply was cut off by the quake.

Tens of thousands slept outside last night, in freezing conditions.

A tent city was set up at the Ercis sports stadium and four thousand tents, along with 11,000 blankets, stoves and food were distributed in the town.