5.6 quake hits eastern Turkey, at least ten dead in Van rubble
One of the collapsed buildings, the 40-year-old Bayram Hotel was home to several journalists and rescuers that came to Van after the earthquake. Twenty seven people were pulled from the rubble so far. AA photo
Thousands spent the night outside in deadly cold temperatures after a 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey’s province of Van on Wednesday at 9:23 p.m. The earthquake, the second to hit the region in two weeks, left eight people dead and more than 100 injured.
Centered in Van’s Edremit district, the earthquake caused two hotels and 25 buildings to collapse in central Van. While 23 of the buildings were empty, the Bayram and Arslan hotels were actively running and housed at least 15 people, Doğan news agency reported.
The collapsed buildings gave way to voices of anger regarding the lack of precautions the government was expected to take following the previous 7.2-magnitude earthquake that had hit the province only weeks ago, claiming 600 lives.
Two reporters from Doğan news agency, Sebahattin Yılmaz and Cem Emir, were reported to be in one of the collapsed hotels. Twenty-seven people were pulled out of the ruins, but it remains unknown how many others are under the rubble.
The Turkish Red Crescent immediately dispatched 15,000 tents and 300 rescue workers, the state-run TRT television station said. There was no damage in the town of Edremit, the quake’s epicenter. The Turkish Armed Forces sent seven transport planes, four helicopters and a team of 81 personnel to the area.
The 5.6-magnitude earthquake brought forward issues of security in the area. While there were controversies over why the damaged buildings were not evacuated, Gülten Kışanak, co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), asked why the necessary damage assessment had not been completed 17 days after the original quake.
“Who is going to report for these deaths? The necessary assessment reports were not completed even after 17 days passed. Why were these people let in these buildings?” Kışanak said.
Responding to the claims on why the governance of Van allowed citizens to stay in the collapsed buildings, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said such claims were speculative. “There hasn’t been a definite assessment report here, these are preliminary reports,” said Atalay, who also went to Van.
Doğan Kalafat, director of the Kandilli Observatory, said the earthquake was definitely not an aftershock but a separate quake. “We are asking our citizens to not go in the damaged buildings or stand next to them,” Kalafat said.
“There are many other buildings in Van that might also collapse,” said Haluk Eyidoğan, a geophysics professor from Istanbul Technical University. “We estimated that there are at least 80 buildings that might collapse soon.”
Meanwhile, another geophysics professor Ahmet Ercan said although the earthquake was defined to be on an east-west fault line, its actual zone could be Lake Van.
“Our research shows that there is magma under Lake Van that is getting closer to the surface. I do not think that there will be any kind of volcanic action, but the necessary estimations should be done,” Ercan told the Daily News.