Rescue teams are desperately
searching for people trapped under rubble after a strong earthquake hit Turkey’s
eastern Van region on Sunday.
More than 200 people died and 1,000 were injured in the 7.2 magnitude quake,
many of them in the town of Ercis, where dozens of buildings fell.
Tens of thousands have been sleeping outside in freezing conditions.
The death toll is expected to rise in the coming hours. PM Recep Tayyip
Erdogan has been visiting the area.
Turkey is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on major
geological fault lines.
Two earthquakes in 1999 with a magnitude of more than 7 killed almost 20,000
people in densely populated parts of the north-west of the country.
The earthquake struck at 13:41 (10:41 GMT) at a depth of 20km (12.4 miles),
with its epicentre 16km north-east of Van in eastern Turkey, the US Geological Survey said.
It was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks, also centred north of
Van, including two of magnitude 5.6 soon after the quake and one of 6.0 late on
‘Screams for help’
Mr Erdogan has been visiting the affected area by
He said that villages close to Van were the worst affected as most buildings
there were made of clay bricks.
The prime minister thanked other countries for their offers of help but said
Turkey could cope with the disaster on its own.
Up to 80 buildings, including a dormitory, collapsed in the town of Ercis,
about 60km north of Van, while 10 fell in Van itself.
Town mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu appealed for help. “We need urgent aid, we need
medics,” he said.
Ambulances, soldiers and rescue teams rushed to the town, a Reuters
photographer reported from Ercis.
Survivors complained of a lack of heavy machinery to remove chunks of cement
floors that had pancaked on to each other, the Associated Press reports.
Serious damage and casualties were also reported in the district of
Celebibag, near Ercis.
“There are many people under the rubble,” said the local mayor, Veysel
“People are in agony, we can hear their screams for help. We need urgent
The head of Turkey’s seismology institute said hundreds of people could have
“We estimate around 1,000 buildings are damaged and our estimate is for
hundreds of lives lost – it could be 500 or 1,000,” said Mustafa Erdik of the