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Up to 1,000 killed in 7.2-magnitude quake in southeastern Turkey

(Xinhua)

23:43, October 23, 2011

ANKARA/ISTANBUL, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Turkish earthquake observatory said Sunday the death toll from a powerful 7.2- magnitude quake in the southeastern province of Van could reach 1, 000.

"The toll from this earthquake could be 500 to 1,000," said Prof. Mustafa Erdik, the head of the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute in Turkey's largest city of Istanbul.

The Istanbul-based Kandilli seismology center originally reported that the earthquake was 6.6 on the Richter scale, but later corrected it to 7.2.

Mustafa Erdik said any quake with a strength of 7.0 or more would cause serious damage to buildings in Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit the area shortly to assess the situation.

The epicenter was in the village of Tabanli in the eastern province of Van, bordering Iran, but the quake was also felt in the province's center as well as the neighboring provinces of Bitlis, Mus, Batman, Diyarbakir and Hakkari.

The Prime Ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said in a statement released after the quake that the tremor was strong and caused material damage and some fatalities. It gave no figure for the death toll.

The earthquake damaged several buildings in the Van province, but the most serious damage was in the neighboring town of Ercis. Several strong aftershocks were also reported.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay earlier said that 25 to 30 buildings collapsed in the town of Ercis and one person killed in the earthquake.

AFAD said more than 500 search, rescue and health personnel have been sent to Van from nearly 40 provinces.

"There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed, there is so much destruction," Zulfikar Arapoglu, 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 save people believed to be trapped under collapsed buildings, television footage showed.

Turkish Red Crescent is sending tents, blankets and other aid materials to the quake-hit province despite ongoing aftershocks, according to Anatolia reports.

Some people were trapped under debris of buildings in central Van, it added.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported Sunday that an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hit eastern Turkey.

The epicenter, with a depth of 7.20 km, was initially determined to be at 38.6270 degrees north latitude and 43.5349 degrees east longitude, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Turkey, lying atop the North Anatolian fault, has been plagued by earthquakes frequently.

On March 8, 2010, at least 38 people died and dozens of others were injured after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake which hit Elazig province in eastern Turkey.

On Aug. 17, 1999, two powerful earthquakes, measuring 6.7 and 7. 4 on the Richter scale respectively, hit northwestern and western Turkey, killing about 18,000 people and affecting hundreds of thousands of others.

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