The 7.2 magnitude temblor struck about dawn, leaving hundreds more missing and many trapped in the rubble crying for help.
The quake struck at 1:41 p.m. local time about 9 miles east of Van, Turkey, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The epicenter was at a relatively shallow depth of 12 miles, which contributed to the extent of the devastation.
Survivors face a homeless life in the snow and cold as wintry conditions are soon predicted to set in.
Government officials and relief agencies were rushing to provide emergency shelters to those affected in the disaster area.
Turkey is riddled with numerous faults and experiences a high level of seismic activity.
The last quake of comparable magnitude was a 7.2 tremor around the city of Duzce in 1999. It killed 894 people. A 7.6 earthquake around Izmit that same year killed more than 17,000 people.