Published: Oct 24, 2011 00:06 Updated: Oct 24, 2011 00:06
ANKARA: A strong earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Sunday, killing hundreds of people. The country's Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck at 1041 GMT and was five km deep. Mustafa Erdik, the observatory's general manager, told a news conference that up to 1,000 people could have been killed by the temblor.
Tens of thousands of residents fled into the streets running, screaming and trying to reach relatives on cell phones. As the full extent of the damage became clear, desperate survivors dug into the rubble with their bare hands, trying to rescue the trapped and the injured.
"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.
At least 85 bodies were recovered from debris by late evening.
The hardest hit was Ercis, a city of 75,000 close to the Iranian border, which lies on the Ercis Fault in one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones. Van, some 90 km to the south, also suffered substantial damage.
As many as 80 buildings collapsed in Ercis, including a dormitory, and 10 buildings collapsed in Van, the Turkish Red Crescent said. Some highways also caved in, CNN-Turk television reported.
"There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed. There is too much destruction," Ercis mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu told NTV television. "We need urgent aid. We need medics."
Hospital staff in Ercis treated injured people in the garden as the buildings were badly damaged, and the dead were left outside, one nurse told CNN Turk.
State television said inmates have escaped from a prison in the quake-hit region.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Ankara has declined aid offered by the Jewish state. "I am under the impression the Turks do not want our help," Barak told Channel 2 News.
"Right now (their answer) is negative but if they see they need more aid and don't have it, or if they rethink it, we have made the offer and remain prepared (to help)," he said.