ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 shook central Turkey today, killing at least three people, injuring more than 50 others and sending thousands into the streets in panic.

The quake's epicenter was in Cerkes, in Cankiri province, some 60 miles north of Ankara. It was followed by nine aftershocks, the strongest measuring 4.5.

In Cerkes, one person jumped from a building and died, the Anatolia news agency reported. Rescuers also pulled the body of an elderly man from a collapsed house in the town of Orta, just south of Cerkes, Public Works and Housing Minister Koray Aydin said.

In Cubuk, just outside of the capital of Ankara, a 17-year-old boy was killed when a three-story building collapsed, said the town's mayor, Mustafa Gokmen. The boy's brother was pulled from the debris injured but alive. Three other members of the family were also injured.

``We were awake for our morning prayers,'' said Hanim Karakaya, a resident of Cubuk reached by telephone. ``We quickly rushed outside. We shook so violently, it was terrifying.''

At least 14 other people were also injured in Cubuk. In Cerkes, at least 36 people were injured, mostly by jumping out of windows in panic, said Cankiri Governor Halil Ulusoy.

Two people were slightly injured when a gas pipeline exploded in an Ankara suburb, the prime minister's office said.

The quake caused hundreds of houses and one school to collapse in villages close to Orta, Anatolia reported. Police were warning people not to return to their homes. Schools were closed for the day.

The quake, which lasted about 30 seconds, was felt in several central provinces and along the Black Sea coast. The quake, which hit at 5:40 a.m., was strong enough to rattle walls in Ankara.

Cankiri lies close to the North Anatolian Fault, the source of two strong earthquakes that leveled parts of northwestern Turkey in August and November, killing more than 18,000 people and destroying thousands of buildings.