Schools in eastern Van temporarily closed after quake

Schools in eastern Van temporarily closed after quake

Schools in eastern Van temporarily closed after quake

AA Photo

Schools in eastern Van province have been closed temporarily due to damage caused by the 5.9-magnitude earthquake that struck near the border with Iran on Feb. 23.

"Education is given a 15-day off. Then, a general evaluation will be made," Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Feb. 24.

Soylu said that due to the damage caused by the earthquake, families living in rural areas are traveling to city centers with their children. Thus, such a decision has been made to "provide unity in education," he said.

Nine people were killed and buildings collapsed on Feb. 23 when a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck near the border with Iran, injuring more than a hundred in villages and towns in both countries, government officials said. 

In Turkey, four of the dead were children, and 50 people were injured, including nine critically, the health ministry said.

The shallow tremor caused more than 1,000 buildings to collapse in Turkey, prompting a brief rescue effort to find those trapped under rubble.

The quake damaged buildings some 90 km to the west in Van, and to the east in dozens of villages in Iran, where state TV said 75 people were injured including six in hospital.

The quake centered just east across the border in neighboring Iran, west of the Iranian city of Khoy, and affected villages in the Turkish province of Van, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD).

Koca said at least 50 people were injured. Three injured people have been hospitalized, including two who are in intensive care and remain in critical condition, Koca said.

Crisscrossed by major fault lines, Iran and Turkey are among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. Last month, a quake centered on the eastern city of Elazığ killed more than 40 people. In 2011, more than 600 were killed when a quake struck north of Van province's capital. 

At least 12 injured people were discharged from hospitals by Feb. 23 night, the interior minister said after a visit to the affected areas.

Soylu said around 250 houses and 300 barns were destroyed, and 700 houses in several villages were heavily damaged.

Nearly 150 tents were sent to shelter families in the region, where several schools in the districts of Başkale, Saray and Gürpınar sustained minor damage. 

A second earthquake by a magnitude 5.9 struck on Feb. 23 evening in Iran yet caused no casualties in Turkey, according to Soylu.

After the initial tremor, Turkish TV footage showed people digging with shovels and their hands in the rubble, as well as furniture and belongings were strewn on cracked and snowy roads.

In one village the ground cratered under several buildings, while in others, residents were wrapped in blankets outside homes with crumbled and cracked exterior walls, fallen metal roofs and twisted wiring.

"The damage caused loss of life," the governor of Van, Mehmet Bilmez, told reporters standing in front of a pile of cinder blocks and sheet metal. "There is destruction in all four villages" he visited on [Feb. 23] morning, he added.

Foreign diplomatic missions in Ankara have conveyed their condolences over the deadly earthquake.

The Delegation of the European Union said in a tweet that it "stands in solidarity with the people and authorities of Turkey in their hour of need."

The U.S. and British Embassies in Ankara also extended condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded.

The first quake that struck at 9:24 a.m. local time (0624GMT) had a depth of six kilometers and the epicenter was in Iran’s Qotur district, according to the Iranian Seismological Center (IRSC).

According to the IRSC, the second quake occurred at 7:30 p.m. local time (0430GMT) and its epicenter was in the northwestern Zarabad region of Khoy.