Rescue workers after earthquake in Turkey 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abdurrahman Antakyali/Anadolu Agency)
VAN, Turkey - As many as 1,000 people were feared killed on Sunday when a
powerful earthquake struck Turkey, collapsing dozens of buildings and
pulling down phone and power lines in the southeast of the country,
officials and witnesses said.
Emergency workers battled to rescue
people trapped in buildings in the city of Van and surrounding
districts on the banks of Lake Van, near Turkey's border with Iran.
Turkey casts doubt over Iran's involvement in Saudi plotFollowing initial reports of the earthquake, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would offer "any assistance required" to deal with the aftermath of the natural disaster but later said Turkey had declined Jerusalem's offers for aid.
Shimon Peres telephoned Turkish President Abdullah Gul Sunday and
offered sent his condolences for
those killed in the quake.
Peres told his Turkish counterpart,
"The State of Israel shares your pain in the aftermath of the
earthquake." He added, "I am speaking as a human, as a Jew and as an
Israeli who remembers and is well aware of the historic ties between our
peoples. It is from that place that I send, in the name of my entire
people, condolences to the families of those killed."
heard cries and groaning from underneath the debris, we are waiting for
the rescue teams to arrive," Halil Celik, a young man who lived in the
center of the city, told Reuters as he stood beside the ruins of
building that had collapsed before his eyes.
"All of a sudden, a quake tore down the building in front of me. All the
bystanders, we all ran to the building and rescued two injured people
from the ruins."
Turkey's Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the
magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck at 1041 GMT and was five kilometers
(three miles) deep.
Around 10 buildings collapsed in Van city and about 25-30 buildings were
brought to the ground in the nearby district of Ercis, Turkisyh Deputy
Prime Minister Besir Atalay told reporters.
"We estimate around 1,000 buildings are damaged and our estimate is for
hundreds of lives lost. It could be 500 or 1,000," Kandilli Observatory
general manager Mustafa Erdik told a news conference.
Cihan news agency reported that there were more than 50 dead bodies at a
hospital in Ercis, a town near Van, near the quake's epicenter.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was traveling to Van and the
cabinet was expected to discuss the quake at a meeting called for Monday
"A lot of buildings collapsed, many people were killed, but we don't
know the number. We are waiting for emergency help, it's very urgent,"
Zulfukar Arapoglu, the mayor of Ercis, told news broadcaster NTV.
Cihan news agency said that of the dead, 30 had been killed in Ercis district where some 80 buildings had collapsed.
"We need tents urgently and rescue teams. We don't have any ambulances,
and we only have one hospital. We have many killed and injured,"
Turkey's Red Crescent said one of its local teams was helping to rescue
people from a student residence in Ercis. It said it was sending tents,
blankets and food to the region.
More than 20 aftershocks shook the area, further unsettling residents
who ran out on the streets when the initial strong quake struck.
Television pictures showed rooms shaking and furniture falling to the
ground as people ran from one building.
Dozens of emergency workers and residents crawled over a multi-story
building in Van as they searched for any people trapped in side.
Elsewhere, vehicles were crushed in the street by falling masonry while dazed-looking people wandered past.
Some 50 injured people were taken to hospital in Van, state-run
Anatolian news agency reported, but it did not give details on how
serious their injuries were.
Turkish media said phone lines and electricity had been cut off. The
quake's epicenter was at the village of Tabanli, 20 km north of Van
city, Kandilli said.
In Hakkari, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Van, a Reuters
correspondent said the building he was in swayed for about 10 seconds
during the quake. But there was no immediate sign of casualties or
damage in the town, which is about two and a half hours drive through
the mountains from Van.
Major geological fault lines cross Turkey and small earthquakes are a
near daily occurrence. Two large quakes in 1999 killed more than 20,000
people in northwest Turkey.
An earthquake struck Van province in November 1976 with 5,291 confirmed
dead. Two people were killed and 79 injured in May when an earthquake
shook Simav in northwest Turkey.