Massive quake strikes Turkey, hundreds feared killed

More than 217 people have been killed and some 1,000 injured after a powerful 7.2-magnitude quake hit eastern Turkey on Sunday. As the relief and rescue works continue, experts fear the death toll is likely to be between 500-1000 people.

Scores of buildings, including apartment blocks, hotels and a student dormitory were destroyed around the quake’s epicenter near the city of Van, close to the Iranian border, with reports also of a prison break-out amid the chaos. More than 200 aftershocks have been registered so far in southeastern regions of the country, reaching a magnitude of up to 6.0.

Rescue brigades from 38 districts of Turkey are involved in the relief works, along with several teams from abroad. In total, some 1300 people are struggling to save the victims of the disastrous quake. 

The most severe damage was seen in the city of Ercis with the population of some 75,000 people. Over 80 multistory apartment blocks collapsed there. The Red Crescent, along with the local emergency servicemen, has supplied the residents of the city with water, food and clothes. The operation has been complicated by chilly weather with temperatures below zero Celsius.

A lot of buildings collapsed, many people were killed, but we don’t know the number. We are waiting for emergency help. It’s urgent,” Zulfukar Arapoglu, the mayor of Ercis district, told NTV broadcaster.

We are estimating a death toll between 500 and 1,000,” Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli Observatory, told a news conference. The seismological service’s estimate is based on the strength of the quake and the structure of the housing in the area.

Two military C-130s have taken off from capital Ankara for Van, carrying aid and supplies, Hurriyet Daily News reports.

The earthquake was also felt in neighboring Armenia and Iran.

According to the US Geological Survey the epicenter of the tremor was located at a depth of 20km, some 17km from the city of Van in Turkey’s Van province.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is heading to the quake-hit area, Turkish media reports.

Ten countries, including Russia, have already offered their help to Turkey. Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said it is ready to send two Il-76 airplanes with humanitarian aid and rescuers.

Israel has also offered its help despite the ongoing tensions between the two countries caused by 2010’s Gaza flotilla raid and the recent expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara.