Officials fear that as many as 1,000 people were killed yesterday when a powerful earthquake hit southeast Turkey, destroying dozens of buildings and trapping some victims alive under rubble.
As night fell, survivors and emergency workers battled to pull people out of the debris in the city of Van and town of Ercis, where a student dormitory collapsed.
Residents in Van joined in a frantic search, using hands and shovels and working under floodlights and flashlights, hearing voices of survivors crying for help under mounds of shattered concrete in pitch darkness and bitter cold.
“We heard cries and groaning from underneath the debris, we are waiting for the rescue teams to arrive,” Halil Celik told Reuters as he stood beside the ruins of building that had collapsed before his eyes.
“All of a sudden, a quake tore down the building in front of me. All the bystanders, we all ran to the building and rescued two injured people from the ruins.”
At another site, three teenagers may still be trapped under a collapsed building. People clambered over the masonry, shouting: “Is there anyone there?”
Turkey’s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the magnitude 7.2 earthquake was three miles deep. It was among the strongest in Turkish history and the worst since 1999.