A powerful earthquake shook Turkey on Sunday afternoon. The 7.2 magnitude quake heavily damaged the city of Ercis, located near the border with Iran. So far, more than 270 people have been reported killed and more than 1,000 have been injured. Turkish government officials said that dozens more remain missing.
Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active earthquake regions. Idris Naim Sahin, Turkey’s Interior Minister, said that 80 tall buildings have collapsed in Ercis, a city with about 75,000 people, located in the eastern part of the country. A special mine rescue team is digging through the rubble of five destroyed apartment buildings that housed university students in Ercis.
At the Scene
Abubekir Acar, 42, said that he was drinking tea with friends when a nearby coffee house was destroyed. He said at first he did not understand what was happening when buildings began to collapse around him.
"For a while, we could not see anything — everywhere was covered in dust. Then, we heard screams and pulled out anyone we could reach," Acar said.
More than 100 aftershocks, or tremors, rocked the area Sunday and another 100 shook the area on Monday. Survivors are trying to deal with the extremely cold temperatures. Some people are using wood from collapsed buildings to start fires to stay warm.
Rescue teams worked through the night under generator-powered lights to search for survivors. Cranes and other equipment lifted heavy concrete so people could dig for survivors. One of the people rescued used his cell phone to call the police and describe the location where he and four others were trapped.
The Turkish government has set up tents, first-aid areas and kitchens to help the thousands left homeless after the quake. Many people are too nervous to return to their homes so they spent the night with relatives or outdoors.. More than 2,000 teams with a dozen rescue dogs are working on the search-and-rescue effort.
Several countries have offered help to Turkey. The nation’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that Azerbaijan, Iran and Bulgaria have sent aid. Israel and Greece have offered to help even though they have had recent political problems with Turkey. President Barack Obama said the United States would also help out in any way possible.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Turkish ally in this difficult time, and are ready to assist," President Barack Obama said.