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Up to 1,000 feared dead as big quake hits Turkey

(Shanghai Daily)

08:43, October 24, 2011

People rescue two women trapped under debris in Van province yesterday after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, collapsing about 90 buildings. Though only about 80 people have been confirmed killed, scientists estimated that up to 1,000 people could have died. The worst damage was in the town of Ercis, in the mountainous eastern Van province, close to the Iranian border. The town of 75,000 lies on the Ercis Fault in one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones.(Shanghai Daily Photo)

A powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey yesterday, killing at least 85 people and sparking widespread panic as it collapsed dozens of buildings into piles of twisted steel and chunks of concrete.

Tens of thousands of residents fled into the streets running, screaming and trying to reach relatives on cell phones. As the full extent of the damage came into focus, desperate survivors dug into the rubble with their bare hands, trying to rescue the trapped and the injured.

"My wife and child are inside! My 4-month-old baby is inside!" CNN-Turk television showed one young man sobbing outside a collapsed building in Van, the provincial capital.

The quake hit Turkey's mountainous eastern region at 1:41pm with an epicenter in the village of Tabanli, 17 kilometers from Van, according to the US Geological Survey.

State-run TRT television reported that 59 people were killed and 150 injured in the eastern town of Ercis, 25 others died in Van and a child died in the province of Bitlis.

But there were fears that it was much worse. Turkish scientists estimated up to 1,000 people could already be dead, due to low housing standards and the quake's size.

The hardest hit was Ercis, a city of 75,000 close to the Iranian border, which lies on the Ercis Fault in one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones. Van, some 90 kilometers to the south, also suffered substantial damage.

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