Turkey: Death toll rises, tens of thousands homeless

366 confirmed dead in earthquake, but hundreds more still missing; rescue teams concentrate efforts in town of Ercis.

By REUTERS
October 25, 2011 03:47
2 minute read.
Turkish people search for survivors after quake

Turkish earthquake rescue efforts 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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ERCIS, Turkey - Tens of thousands of people spent a second night under canvas, in cars or huddled round small fires in towns rattled by aftershocks from a massive earthquake in eastern Turkey that killed hundreds.

By late Monday the death toll from Sunday's quake had crept up to 366, but hundreds more were still missing.

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Casualties were concentrated in the town of Ercis and the provincial capital Van, with officials still checking and confirming fatalities in outlying villages.

"It was like the judgment day," said Mesut Ozan Yilmaz, 18, who survived for 32 hours under the rubble of a tea house where he had been passing time with friends.

Unhurt, but lying on a hospital bed under a thick blanket, his face still blackened by dust and dirt, Yilmaz gave a chilling account to CNN Turk news channel of how he survived by diving under the table.

"The space we had was so narrow. People were fighting for more space to survive," Yilmaz said. "I rested my head on a dead man's foot. I know I would be dead now if I had let myself go psychologically."

As grieving families prepared on Tuesday to bury their dead, others kept vigil by the mounds of concrete rubble and masonry, praying rescue teams would find missing loved ones alive.



Rescue teams concentrated efforts in Ercis, a town of 100,000 that was worst hit by the 7.2 magnitude tremor.

Turkish Red Crescent struggles to provide enough tents

The Turkish Red Crescent distributed up to 13,000 tents, and was preparing to provide temporary shelter for around 40,000 people, although there were no reliable estimates of the number of people left destitute.

The relief agency was criticised for failing to ensure that some of the most needy, particularly in villages, received tents as temperatures plummeted overnight.

"We were sent 25 tents for 150 homes. Everybody is waiting outside, we've got small children, we've got nothing left," Ahmet Arikes, the 60-year-old headman of Amik, a village outside Van that was reduced to rubble.

Television images showed desperate men pushing roughly to grab tents from the back of a Red Crescent truck.

"I didn't think the Red Crescent was successful enough in giving away tents. There is a problem on that matter," Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the ruling AK Party, told the CNN Turk news channel. "I apologise to our people."

Soon after, the relief agency's chairman told the news channel that 12,000 more tents would be delivered to Van on Tuesday. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, overseeing relief operations in Van, promised: "From today there will be nothing our people lack."

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