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Rescue underway in quake-hit southeast Turkey, death toll rises to 138


08:33, October 24, 2011

ANKARA, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hitting southeast Turkey Sunday has risen to 138, as rescuers were racing against the time to search for survivors in the quake-hit zone.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is visiting the disaster area, said early Monday that 93 people were killed in Van city of Van province and another 45 in Ercis town, also located in Van province.

Turkey's TRT television quoted Erdogan as saying that at least 350 people were injured in the quake, which struck Sunday afternoon, with its epicenter located in the village of Tabanli in Van province bordering Iran.

The Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute originally reported that the earthquake was 6.6 on the Richter scale, but later revised it up to 7.2.

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

TV footage showed residents spilling out into the streets in panic as rescue workers struggled to save people believed to be trapped under collapsed buildings.

"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."

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

The prime ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said in a statement released after the quake that more than 500 search, rescue and health personnel have been sent to Van from nearly 40 provinces.

A total of 275 rescue teams from 38 Turkish provinces have reached the Van province, Turkey's TRT television quoted the prime minister's office as saying.

More than 17 aftershocks, including one measured 6.1 on the Richter scale, have occurred on Sunday.

The Turkish earthquake observatory said earlier the death toll from the quake could reach 1,000.

"The toll from this earthquake could be 500 to 1,000," said Prof. Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli center.

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

The quake was also felt in the neighboring Turkish provinces of Bitlis, Mus, Batman, Diyarbakir and Hakkari, as well as Iran's provinces of West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan.

Iran's state IRIB TV website said the earthquake caused damage to buildings in the Chaldran city of the border province of West Azerbaijan and cut off telephone communication in the city and its vicinity.

West Azerbaijan's governor general told local Mhr news agency earlier that two people were injured in Chaldran and the power lines were briefly affected.

Countries including Israel and Iran have offered aid to Turkey after the earthquake.

Israeli President Shimon Peres telephoned his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul on Sunday to offer help in the wake of the earthquake. "At this difficult time, Israel is willing to provide any aid required anywhere in Turkey and at any time," Peres said, according to a statement released by his office.

Israeli defense forces' chief of staff also instructed the Homefront Command's experienced search and rescue unit to prepare aid and gear pending Ankara's agreement to accept the mission.

The head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Mahmoud Mozaffar said Iran was ready to send rescue teams to the quake-hit province of Turkey, the official IRNA news agency reported.

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 hit the 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.

A major earthquake hit Van province in November 1976, with 5, 291 confirmed dead. The province has a population of just over 1 million.


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