Buildings Collapse, Dozens Dead In Turkey Earthquake - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Buildings Collapse, Dozens Dead In Turkey Earthquake

Photo From Ali Ihsan Ozturk / AFP Photo From Ali Ihsan Ozturk / AFP

ANKARA, Turkey - A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Sunday, 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 became clear, desperate survivors dug into the rubble with their bare hands, trying to rescue the trapped and the injured.

Turkey's state-run television TRT said a group of inmates escaped from a prison after the earthquake struck. It gave no other detail and it was not immediately known how many had fled.

"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.

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 nearby province of Bitlis.

Turkish scientists estimated that up to 1,000 people could already be dead, due to low local housing standards and the size of the quake.

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 55 miles (90 kilometers) to the south, also suffered substantial damage.

As many as 80 buildings collapsed in Ercis, including a dormitory, and 10 buildings collapsed in Van, the Turkish Red Crescent said. Some highways also caved in, CNN-Turk television reported.

NTV television said hundreds of injured people were treated at the state hospital in Ercis. Survivors in Ercis complained of lack of heavy machinery to remove chunks of cement floors that pancaked onto each other, NTV television reported.

"There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed. There is too much destruction," Ercis mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu told NTV television. "We need urgent aid. We need medics."

In Van, terrified residents spilled into the streets screaming. Rescue workers and residents scrambled, using only their hands and basic shovels, to save those who were trapped.

Residents sobbed outside the ruins of one flattened eight-story building, hoping that missing relatives would be rescued.

Witnesses said eight people were pulled from the rubble, but frequent aftershocks were hampering search efforts, CNN-Turk reported. One teenage girl was pulled out of the building by the late evening. Rescuers tied steel rods around large concrete swabs which they then lifted with heavy machinery, Dogan news agency video footage showed.

Residents in Van and Ercis lit camp fires, preparing to spend the night outdoors.

U.S. scientists recorded eight aftershocks within three hours of the quake, including two with a magnitude of 5.6.

Serious damage and casualties were also reported in the district of Celebibag, near Ercis.

"There are many people under the rubble," Veysel Keser, mayor of Celebibag, told NTV. "People are in agony, we can hear their screams for help. We need urgent help."

He said many buildings had collapsed, including student dormitories, hotels and gas stations.

Nazmi Gur, a legislator from Van, was at his nephew's funeral when the quake struck. The funeral ceremony was cut short and he rushed back to help with rescues.

"At least six buildings had collapsed. We managed to rescue a few people, but I saw at least five bodies," Gur told The Associated Press by telephone. "There is no coordinated rescue at the moment, everyone is doing what they can."

"It was such a powerful temblor. It lasted for such a long time," Gur said. "(Now) there is no electricity, there is no heating, everyone is outside in the cold."

Many residents fled Van to seek shelter with relatives in nearby villages.

This article is from the AP and MSNBC

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