Turkey quake kills at least 22, rescuers dig for survivors
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[January 25, 2020]
By Umit Ozdal
ELAZIG, Turkey (Reuters) - The death toll
from a powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey reached 22 on Saturday, as
rescuers searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of collapsed
The magnitude 6.8 quake late Friday shook Elazig province, about 550 km
(340 miles) east of the capital Ankara, and was followed by more than
390 aftershocks, 14 of which had magnitudes over 4.
Eighteen people were killed in Elazig and four more in the neighboring
province of Malatya, said Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD),
adding 1,103 others were injured and in hospitals in the region. It said
rescue efforts were underway at three different sites in Elazig.
Turkish broadcasters showed footage of rescuers pulling people out from
under the debris, some around 17 hours after the quake.
Speaking in Elazig, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said an estimated
22 people were still trapped under debris. AFAD later said 40 people had
been rescued so far.
Speaking alongside Soylu, Health Minster Fahrettin Koca said 128 wounded
people were receiving treatment and that 34 of those were in intensive
care, but not in critical conditions. He said additional medical centers
would be set up if necessary.
Rescue teams worked through the night with their hands, drills and
mechanical diggers to remove bricks and plaster from collapsed buildings
in Elazig, where the overnight temperature dipped to -8 degrees Celsius.
"Our houses collapsed ... we cannot go inside them," said a 32-year-old
man from the town of Sivrice, epicenter of the quake which struck
shortly before 9 p.m. (1800 GMT).
"In our village some people lost their lives. I hope God will help us,"
said the man, who gave only his first name, Sinasi. "Our animals died.
Our families gathered around the fire to spend the night, covered with
blankets," Sinasi said as he and a relative tried to warm themselves by
a small fire.
State media said on Saturday President Tayyip Erdogan had canceled his
plans in Istanbul and would travel to Elazig.
State media in Syria and Iran both reported the earthquake was felt in
those countries. Local media in Lebanon said the cities of Beirut and
Tripoli also felt the quake.
On Friday night, Soylu described it as a "Level 3" incident according to
the country's emergency response plan, meaning it called for a national
response but did not require international help.
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A villager looks at his collapsed house after an earthquake in
Sivrice near Elazig, Turkey, January 25, 2020. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar
He said Turkey, which straddles seismic faultlines and is prone to
earthquakes, had learned lessons from previous disasters which
helped it address Friday's incident. Drones were deployed in search
operations and to communicate between provinces.
Emergency teams and rescue equipment were sent from other provinces
to Elazig, with thousands of rescuers and medical personnel on the
ground to look for and help survivors. Flag-carrier Turkish Airlines
<THYAO.IS> started additional flights to Elazig from Ankara and
Istanbul to help transport rescuers.
AFAD warned residents not to return to damaged buildings because of
the danger of further aftershocks. It said beds, blankets and tents
were being sent to the area, where some people sheltered in sports
gymnasiums. Turkey's Kizilay aid group also sent food, heaters and
other materials to the region.
"I wish God's mercy to our brothers who lost their lives in the
earthquake, and urgent healing for those who were injured," Erdogan
said on Twitter on Friday.
Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum, who spoke
alongside Soylu on Saturday, said five buildings in Elazig had
collapsed in the quake and there were several heavily damaged
Soylu also said on Saturday a prison in the nearby Adiyaman province
was being evacuated due to damage to the building. Justice Minister
Abdulhamit Gul said the inmates were being transferred to prisons in
three nearby provinces.
Turkey has a history of powerful earthquakes. More than 17,000
people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck
the western city of Izmit, 90 km (55 miles) southeast of Istanbul.
About 500,000 people were made homeless.
In 2011, an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town
of Ercis, some 100 km (60 miles) to the north, killing at least 523
(Reporting by Umit Ozdal in Elazig; Additional reporting by Ezgi
Erkoyun, Dominic Evans, Tuvan Gumrukcu, Omer Berberoglu, Mert Ozkan
and Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Michael Perry and Mark Potter)
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