Quake Kills 138 in Southeast Turkey

Posted October 23rd, 2011 at 9:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey's prime minister says a powerful earthquake in the country's southeast has killed 138 people and injured 350 others.

Rescue workers used generator-powered equipment to search for hundreds of missing people in the dark, hours after a magnitude 7.2 quake struck Van province at midday Sunday . The earthquake wiped out electricity in several areas and shook many multi-storied buildings to the ground.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday's earthquake killed 93 people in Van City and 45 people in the town of Ercis. Several strong aftershocks were recorded, including one with a magnitude of 6.1.

Countries, including the United States and Israel, have offered assistance to Turkey. U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday the U.S. is following the quake reports with great concern and will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Turkey during this difficult time.

Turkey has not yet called for international aid to help with the crisis.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was saddened to learn of the loss of life from Sunday's quake. He praised Turkish authorities for their rapid response to the disaster and said the U.N. remains ready to offer help, if requested.

Officials say the wreckage includes hotels and a dormitory. Survivors said cries from those trapped in the rubble were heard hours after the quake. The mayor of Ercis issued a call for urgent aid, saying there were many dead.

The city of Van also has damage and casualties. Television footage shows collapsed buildings and crushed vehicles in Van, and people using shovels and pry bars to claw through wreckage for survivors.

State television said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was traveling to Van late Sunday, and the government set an emergency Cabinet meeting for Monday.

Major geological fault lines cross the region and small earthquakes are a frequent occurrence.