Earthquake hits eastern Turkey

The most destructive earthquake in ten years hit Van province on the south-eastern side of Turkey, one year after this country had suffered from a previous tremor.

This disaster took place at 1:41 local time with the epicentre in Tabanli and was followed by around 20 aftershocks. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said that the earthquake was affecting a 12 mile radius from Van, the aftershocks also struck the bordering provinces of Diyarbakir, Mus, Hakkari and Bitils.

The Istanbul-based Kandilli Seismology Centre recorded that the first quake had a magnitude of 6.6; the aftershocks ranged from 2.6 to 5.8 and the epicentre was recorded at a depth of 5 kilometres. However, the USGS came up with a magnitude of 7.2 with a depth of 7.2 kilometres for the main quake, while CENC even recorded a depth of 10 kilometres.

There were two severe earthquakes in 1999: a magnitude 7.2 in Duzce with 894 people killed and the second was a 7.6 quake in Izmit with more than 17000 people killed. In recent years, two other earthquakes have struck, a 6.0 magnitude hit the eastern side and killed 51 people in March; a 6.4 magnitude quake in Bingol killed 180 people.

The local television has been broadcasting images of people who could not make their way out and were buried alive by the rubble. When the earthquake began, the situation dissolved into chaos, with members of the public fleeing from collapsing buildings. Van officials said many buildings including dormitories and hotels were collapsed. At least 1000 people were injured and taken to hospitals and some victims could be heard calling for help under the ruins.

After the quakes subsided, ambulances and bulldozers were immediately put to work. Rescue efforts, are, however still

under way. Locals have been assisting in the attempt to rescue those who are still trapped, with flashlights, shovels and even their bare hands, while some people are still fearing for their families and friends or are grieving for their loss.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) has launched over 500 searches so far. Rescue and medical personnel have been sent to Van from approximately 40 provinces nearby, although the mayor of Eris told NTV television that they were still short of emergency aid. Israeli President Shimon Peres telephoned Turkish President Abdullah Gul to offer assistance, and President Barack Obama said the US regard Turkey as an ally and is ready to assist.

The latest death toll stands at 459. However, as the rescue teams have not reached some of the small villages, the toll is likely to increase. Prof. Mustafa Erdik, the head of the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research institute in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul, estimated 500 to 1000 people were killed during the incident.

Located above North Anatolian fault, and lying in one of the most active zones, Turkey is frequently afflicted by earthquakes.

There were two other severe earthquakes in 1999: the first one was a 7.2 magnitude in Duzce with 894 people killed and the second was a 7.6 quake in Izmit with more than 17000 people killed. In recent years, two other earthquakes have struck, a 6.0 magnitude hit the eastern side and killed 51 people in March; a 6.4 magnitude quake in Bingol killed 180 people.

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