7.2 quake in Turkey kills 138, collapses buildings

 


ANKARA, Turkey — Cries of panic and horror filled the air as a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, killing at least 138 people as buildings pancaked and crumpled into rubble. The death toll was expecte to rise as rescuers sifted through the rubble and reached outlying villages.

Tens of thousands fled into the streets running, screaming or trying to reach relatives on cell phones as apartment and office buildings cracked or collapsed. As the full extent of the damage became clear, survivors dug in with shovels or even their bare hands, desperately trying to rescue the trapped and the injured.

AP Photo/Ali Ihsan Ozturk, Anatolia

People rescue two women trapped under debris in Van eastsern Turkey after a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, collapsing about 45 buildings in Van province, Sunday, according to the deputy Turkish prime minister.

"My wife and child are inside! My 4-month-old baby is inside!" CNN-Turk television showed one young man sobbing outside a collapsed building in Van, the provincial capital.

The hardest hit area was Ercis, an eastern city of 75,000 close to the Iranian border, which lies on one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones. The bustling city of Van, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) to the south, also sustained substantial damage. Highways in the area caved in. The temblor struck at 1:41 p.m. (1041 GMT; 4:41 a.m. MDT), the U.S. Geological Survey said.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at least 93 people were killed in Van, 45 others died in Ercis, and about 350 were injured. Several people were still trapped under rubble, he said, without citing any estimates.

Erdogan said rescue work would continue through the night.

Up to 80 buildings collapsed in Ercis, including a dormitory, and 10 buildings collapsed in Van, the Turkish Red Crescent said. The sheer number of collapsed buildings gave rise to fears that the death toll could rise substantially.

U.S. scientists recorded over 100 aftershocks in eastern Turkey within 10 hours of the quake, including one with a magnitude of 6.0. Authorities advised people to stay away from damaged homes, warning they could collapse in the aftershocks.

Residents in Van and Ercis lit campfires, preparing to spend the night outdoors while the Red Crescent began setting up tents in a stadium. Others sought shelter with relatives in nearby villages.-

Rescue efforts went deep into the night under generator-powered floodlights. Workers tied steel rods around large concrete slabs in Van, then lifted them with heavy machinery.

Residents sobbed outside the ruins of one flattened eight-story building, hoping that missing relatives would be found. Witnesses said eight people were pulled from the rubble, but frequent aftershocks hampered search efforts. By late evening, some joy emerged as a ninth, a teenage girl, was pulled out alive.


Erdogan urged residents to stay away from damaged buildings and promised assistance to all survivors.

"We won't leave anyone to fend for themselves in the cold of winter," he said.

Around 1,275 rescue teams from 38 provinces were being sent to the region, officials said, and troops were also assisting search-and-rescue efforts

In Ercis, heavy machinery halted and people were ordered to keep silent as rescuers tried to listen for possible survivors inside a seven-story building housing 28 families, NTV reported.

Some inmates escaped a prison in Van after one of its walls collapsed. TRT television said around 150 inmates had fled, but a prison official said the number was much smaller and many later returned.

 

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