Rescuers Search for Survivors After Quake Kills 217 in Turkey

Posted October 24th, 2011 at 6:00 am (UTC-5)
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Rescue workers in southeastern Turkey were digging through rubble Monday, trying to find survivors after an earthquake that killed at least 239 people and injured more than 1,000 others.

The search involves hundreds of teams of rescuers from across the country going through the remains of buildings flattened by Sunday's magnitude 7.2 quake.

The earthquake did the most damage in the town of Ercis, where Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin says at least 117 people died, while another 100 people were killed in Van City.

Several strong aftershocks were recorded, including one with a magnitude of 6.1.

Many residents spent the night in the streets huddled around fires as aid groups distributed food and tents.

Several 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.

But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country is able to take care of the humanitarian needs itself. He visited the region late Sunday, and state television said the government set an emergency Cabinet meeting for Monday.

U.N. 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.

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