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Turkey: Huge earthquake kills hundreds

PUBLISHED: 15:13 23 October 2011 | UPDATED: 15:13 23 October 2011

A POWERFUL earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.2 struck eastern Turkey today, collapsing some buildings and causing a number of deaths according to officials.

The quake struck eastern Van province at 1:41pm (10.41 British time), according to the US Geological Survey. It caused widespread panic throughout the province as well as neighbouring cities.

It toppled some buildings in central Van as well as the neighbouring town of Ercis, officials said. Several strong aftershocks were also reported.

“There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed, there is too much destruction,” said Zulfikar Arapoglu, the mayor of Ercis told NTV television. “We need urgent aid, we need medics.”

Residents spilled out into the streets in panic as rescue workers struggled to evacuate people, believed to be trapped under collapsed buildings, television footage showed.

In Van, at least two buildings collapsed, Bekir Kaya, the mayor of Van, told NTV. One of them was a seven-story building, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.

“The telephone system is jammed due to panic and we can’t assess the entire damage immediately,” Mr Kaya said.

The USGS originally gave the magnitude as 7.3 but later corrected it to 7.2. It said the quake had a depth of 20 kilometres (12.4 miles), which is relatively shallow and could potentially cause more damage.

Turkey’s Kandilli observatory gave it a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 but put its depth at 5 kilometres. Several aftershocks as strong as magnitude 5.5 followed, the observatory said.

The quake’s epicentre was in the village of Tabanli in eastern Van province, bordering Iran. But it was felt in several provinces across the area.

Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is crossed by faultlines.

In 1999, about 18,000 people were killed by two powerful earthquakes that struck north-western Turkey.

Turkey’s main seismography centre said the 7.2-magnitude quake that hit the east of the country could have killed up to 1,000 people.

The Kandilli observatory’s estimate is based on the strength of the quake and the structure of the housing in the area.

“We are estimating a death toll between 500 and 1,000,” Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli observatory, told a televised news conference.

The deputy prime minister says around 45 buildings have collapsed in the town of Ercis and the city of Van. Ercis sits on a geological fault line.


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