A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, at 1:41 p.m. local time Sunday. The death toll has risen to 275, with an estimated 1100 people injured. The epicenter was located 12 miles south of the ancient city of Van at a depth of 12 miles
Turkey’s Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said 80 multi-storey buildings had collapsed in the city of Ercis, with people trapped inside up to 40 of them. Ercis is a city of 75,000 located, in the Van province, close to the Iranian border. The office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a total of 970 buildings in the earthquake zone had collapsed.
Rescue teams were racing against time digging through the collapsed buildings fighting aftershocks and temperatures that were expected to reach freezing last night.
The USGS reports that about 200 aftershocks continue to hit the region, including a magnitude 6.0 temblor late Sunday night. Some 2,400 rescue workers are involved in the relief effort, as are 680 medics, 12 rescue dogs and 108 ambulances – including seven air ambulances, the prime minister’s office said.
The Turkish Red Crescent has sent 1000 tents and 500 food packages to the area.
Offers of aid from countries including the United States, Britain, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland and Greece began pouring in hours after the earthquake. Israel, whose relationship with Turkey has deteriorated in the last year, also said they were prepared to offer the Turkish government “any aid they might need”.
The area is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes as it sits close to the North and South Anatolian faults, two major geological fault lines that are seismically very active.
The earthquake is largest to hit Turkey since 1999 when two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7.0 struck northwest Turkey, killing over 19,000 people.