It was the nation’s most powerful quake in at least a decade, and those that had cameras rolling as the earth trembled captured quite a harrowing scene.
Turkey is particularly prone to earthquakes, resting directly on a number of volatile fault lines. Sunday’s earthquake, which initially measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, struck a mountainous, poor region of eastern Turkey. The epicenter, according to the USGS, was located 9 miles northeast of Van.
Ercis, a town of 75,000 near the Iranian border, was among the hardest hit by the quake. Turkish television shows buildings collapsed into piles of concrete, with rescuers flocking to the scene to dig through the rubble. Reports from Ercis put the initial death toll at 45. “There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed. There is too much destruction,” Ercis mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu told NTV television. “We need urgent aid. We need medics.”
According to the Turkish Red Crescent, 80 apartment buildings and a student dormitory collapsed in Ercis, on the north shore of Lake Van. Rescuers and citizens flocked to the building to pull out survivors. Ten buildings are reported to have fallen in Van, near the epicenter. A highway is also said to have caved in.
Sky Turk’s coverage from Ercis shows people flooding the streets, many stunned by the scene that continues to unravel. Many who remained safe in the wake of the quake and its aftershocks immediately swarmed the buildings that collapsed, attempting to rescue any survivors.
A total of 60 bodies have been found so far, but that toll is expected to rise. Scientists were cautious in saying as many as 1,000 could have died in the violent temblor. “We are estimating a death toll between 500 and 1,000,” Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli observatory, told a televised news conference.
The quake, which struck at 10:41 a.m. local time, was listed at a depth of 12.4 miles. Aftershocks have continued to rock the region as the cleanup effort unfolded. The USGS reported up to eight aftershocks within three hours of the initial quake, measuring up to a magnitude of 5.6.