Huffpost WorldPost

Turkey: Earthquake Hits Eastern Part Of Country

Posted: Updated:

ANKARA, Turkey — Rescue workers have pulled out 23 survivors from the rubble of three buildings, collapsed by an earthquake in eastern Turkey, the country's disaster management authority said Thursday. At least seven were killed and dozens of others trapped.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said Wednesday's quake toppled 25 buildings in the city of Van but only three of them were occupied since the others have been evacuated after suffering damages in last month's powerful temblor. The magnitude-5.7 quake was a grim replay of the previous magnitude-7.2 earthquake that hit Oct. 23, killing more than 600 people.

Rescue workers speeded up their search for survivors by daylight on Thursday, trying to open tunnels into the debris, CNN-Turk television reported. The workers used the glare of high-powered lights to work throughout the night despite several aftershocks.

Atalay said Thursday that the rescue work was concentrating at the site of two collapsed hotels and one apartment building. The disaster management authority said 23 survivors were pulled out along with the bodies of seven people.

One of the collapsed buildings was the Bayram Hotel, Van's best-known hotel. It was at least 40 years old, and had been renovated last year.

Some of the guests were journalists who were covering the aftermath of the previous temblor, which left thousands homeless and led a number of countries to send tents, blankets and other supplies to assist Turkey in the aid effort.

Turkey's Dogan news agency said two of its reporters were missing.

Ozgur Gunes, a cameraman for Turkey's Cihan news agency, told Haber Turk television that some trapped journalists had sent text messages to colleagues asking to be rescued.

He had left the hotel before the quake, but rushed back to collect his camera after it struck, only to find that the building toppled.

"There was dust everywhere and the hotel was flattened," he said. He told Sky Turk television that the building had some small cracks before the quake, but that he and other guests were told that there was no structural damage.

The exact number of people at the Bayram Hotel was not known but dozens are believed to be trapped, authorities said. CNN-Turk television said a number of people were also said to be waiting at an office of an inter-city bus firm under the hotel when the quake hit.

Hotel owner Aslan Bayram told NTV television that the hotel had 27 guests, about half of whom were inside when the quake hit. But he said he did not know how many customers may have been in a shop selling desserts at the entrance of the building.

Mustafa Bilici, a ruling party lawmaker, said one person died after throwing himself out of a building in panic.

Atalay said among the toppled buildings were a school and a number of mudbrick homes.

The government dispatched hundreds of rescue teams from across the country aboard military and civilian planes, NTV television said. Schools in the region are closed until Dec. 5.

The Turkish Red Crescent immediately dispatched 15,000 tents as well as some 300 rescue workers, the state-run TRT television said. There was no damage in the town of Edremit, the quake's epicenter.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 5.7 and that its epicenter was 16 kilometers (9 miles) south of Van. It struck at 9:23 p.m. (1923 GMT, 2:23 p.m. EST).

About 1,400 aftershocks have rocked the region since the massive earthquake on Oct. 23, which killed more than 600 and left thousands homeless. Many residents had been living in tents, despite the cold, too afraid to return to their homes. At least 2,000 buildings were destroyed in the stronger temblor and authorities declared another 3,700 buildings unfit for living.