Turkey quake toll reaches 279

October 25th, 2011 - 12:55 am ICT by IANS  

Ankara, Oct 24 (IANS) Hundreds of people are still believed to be buried under the rubble as the toll in Sunday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey rose to 279.

The quake in Van province also injured about 1,300 people, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said.

The quake was one of the most powerful to hit Turkey in a decade, Xinhua reported.

About 80 multi-storey buildings collapsed in Ercis town, which is located close to the Iranian border.

In Van city, some 88 km south of Ercis, over 50 buildings collapsed, including a student dormitory. About 4,000 buildings in the region were damaged.

“As the rescue work progresses, the death toll in Ercis will possibly increase,” Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said.

Sahin said some people are still trapped inside some 40 buildings, implying the toll could increase substantially.

“Because the buildings are made of mud brick, they are more vulnerable to quakes. I must say that almost all buildings in such villages are destroyed,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Van Sunday.

Some rescue teams have been digging through rubbles of flattened multistorey buildings searching for survivors.

Residents in the quake-hit region spent the night outdoors, while the Turkish Red Crescent set up tents, field hospitals and kitchens to help the homeless.

So far 26 planes carrying relief material and hundreds of engineering vehicles were sent to the disaster-stricken area, a statement from prime ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate said.

Nearly 2,400 search and rescue personnel, 355 engineering vehicles and over 100 ambulances are sent to the region.

Nearly 200 prisoners escaped from a prison in Van after one of its walls collapsed, and 50 of them returned after meeting their families.

Turkey refused assistance from other countries, saying foreign aid is not currently needed.

“I extend my thanks to those presidents who called by phone and shared our sorrow, stated solidarity and offered assistance,” President Abdullah Gul said in a written statement Monday.

Earlier, dozens of countries and organizations, including the US, Britain, Israel, China, NATO and the UN, had offered help to Turkey.

Turkey, lying atop the North Anatolian fault, has been plagued by frequent quakes. On March 8, 2010, at least 38 people died after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Elazig province in eastern Turkey.

A major earthquake hit Van province in November 1976, leaving 5,291 dead. The province has a population of just over one million.

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