Major quake shakes eastern city of Van, 1,000 feared dead
VAN | 10/23/2011 12:00:00 AM |
A 7.2 magnitude temblor hits the eastern Anatolian city of Van, creating massive damage and possibly taking many lives. Nearly 1,000 citizens could have been killed and thousands wounded, according to an unofficial initial estimate
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Turkey yesterday, triggering the collapse of buildings and killing many people, according to officials and experts.
At least 50 people were taken to the single hospital in the city of Van, Anatolia news agency said, and at least 10 buildings in central Van and 25 buildings in the Erciş district, including a dormitory, collapsed.
“There is serious human and material loss,” said a brief statement from the Prime Ministry’s national disaster body.
Kandilli Observatory placed the death toll estimate at up to 1,000.
“The intensity of a 7.2 [magnitude earthquake] could be [around] eight or nine. The point of concern for Turkey’s institutions and the public is the scale of the damage,” Mustafa Erdik, director of Istanbul’s Kandilli Observatory and Research Institute, told a press conference in Istanbul yesterday.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 buildings were estimated to have been heavily damaged in the area, he said, while some 664 buildings were so severely damaged that people were likely to have lost their lives in them.
The observatory also estimated that around 700 people may have lost their lives due to the quake, although figures could move up to 1,000 or down to 500, Erdik said, adding that the margin of error in these estimates was high.
The critical information about earthquakes is not their magnitude but their intensity, he said. The earthquake intensity in the eastern province of Van, the quake’s epicenter, stood at around eight, but there were also places that had experienced an intensity of nine, he added.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan canceled his official program and flew to Van yesterday, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım.
The state is doing its best to help the survivors and victims of the earthquake, Atalay said. “Trucks carrying supplies from the Turkish Red Crescent’s depots in Muş, Elazığ and Erzurum are already on the way to Van,” the deputy prime minister told reporters in Ankara before his departure. “Since the weather is cold in the region, our priority will be to distribute tents, heaters and food as soon as possible.”
Selahattin Demirtaş, co-leader of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), canceled his program in the southeastern province of Hakkari and moved to Van with BDP deputies and party executives.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was expected to go to the disaster area today.
The Erciş district suffered major damage, agencies reported. “A lot of buildings collapsed and many people were killed, but we don’t know the number. We are waiting for emergency help. It’s very urgent,” Erciş Mayor Zülfükar Arapoğlu told the private news broadcaster NTV.
“We need tents and rescue teams urgently. We don’t have any ambulances, and we only have one hospital. Many people have been killed and injured,” he said.
Television footage showed collapsed buildings and vehicles from central Van, with residents rushing around and panic in the streets.
“People are panicked. The telecommunication services have collapsed. We cannot reach anybody,” Van Mayor Bekir Kaya told the NTV television in an initial assessment.
The Kandilli Observatory measured the quake at a magnitude of 7.2, revising an earlier measurement of 6.6, while the U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at a magnitude of 7.3.
“The earthquake’s magnitude was announced as 6.6, as the stations closest [to the quake’s epicenter] provide only figures about local magnitude. Later on, records from distant stations yielded 7.3 as the quake’s magnitude,” said Erdik.
There were aftershocks with a magnitude of around 5.5 in the area, Erdik said, and the quake was a shallow one, which limited damage to the area around Van and Erciş.
The epicenter of the aftershocks, which occurred in the afternoon, was located 19 kilometers northeast of Van, the institute said.
Compiled from DHA and AA stories by the Daily News staff.