As night fell, emergency workers battled to dig people out of the rubble in the city of Van and surrounding districts.Civilians joined in the desperate search, using their bare hands and working under generator-powered floodlights. “We heard cries and groaning from underneath the debris, we are waiting for the rescue teams to arrive,” Halil Celik 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.”
At another site, three teenagers were believed trapped under a collapsed building. People clambered over the shattered masonry, shouting: “Is there anyone there?” An elderly rescue worker sat sobbing, his exhausted face covered in dust. Police tried to keep onlookers back. Ambulance crews sat waiting to help anyone dragged out of the debris. Turkey’s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck at 10.41am GMT and was five kilometres deep.
A dozen buildings collapsed in Van city, close to the Iranian border, and more were brought to the ground in the nearby district of Ercis, 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.
Hospital sources in Ercis, a town near the quake’s epicentre, said there were some 70 dead bodies at one hospital and that 405 people had been wounded. The quake was among the strongest in Turkish history, and the worst since 1999. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was travelling to Van and the cabinet was expected to discuss the quake on Monday morning.
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 70 aftershocks shook the area, further unsettling residents who ran into the streets when the initial quake struck.Television pictures showed rooms shaking and furniture toppling as people ran from one building.
Turkish media said phone lines and electricity had been cut off. The quake’s epicentre was at the village of Tabanli, 20 km north of Van city, Kandilli said. International offers of aid poured in from NATO, China, Japan, the United States, Azerbaijan, European countries and Israel. – PT