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Turkey earthquake Desperate search for survivors

Posted by Lindy on October 24, 2011

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23rd October 2011-10-24

Rescue teams are desperately searching for people trapped under rubble after a strong earthquake hit Turkey’s eastern Van region on Sunday. Some 239 people died and 1,300 were injured in the 7.2 magnitude quake. The city of Ercis was the worst-hit, where 80 buildings, including a dormitory, collapsed. Tens of thousands have been sleeping outside in freezing conditions.

Turkey is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on major geological fault lines. Two earthquakes in 1999 with a magnitude of more than 7 killed almost 20,000 people in densely populated parts of the north-west of the country.

It was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks, also centred north of Van, including two of magnitude 5.6 soon after the quake and one of 6.0 late on Sunday.

Ambulances, soldiers and rescue teams rushed to Ercis.  Survivors complained of a lack of heavy machinery to remove chunks of cement floors that had pancaked on to each other. Serious damage and casualties were also reported in the district of Celebibag, near Ercis. “There are many people under the rubble,” said the local mayor. “We can hear their screams for help. We need urgent help.”

Turkish seismologist Polat Gulkan told the BBC that building regulations were often ignored in Turkey. “The enforcement of the code provisions is not at the standard that we would like to see it,” he said.

Residents of Van and Ercis have been spending the night huddled around camp fires in the open air, fearing more aftershocks. Rescuers could be seen working by torchlight, using their bare hands and shovels. The quake cut electricity and telephone lines and the authorities in some areas have cut gas to avoid the risk of fire. More search and rescue teams were being sent from other parts of the country, including from the Turkish Red Crescent. Camps were being set up to shelter people and blankets, and that food and water were being sent, along with mobile kitchens. Military aircraft were being deployed to help with the rescue and relief efforts.


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