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Up to 1,000 feared dead in Turkey quake
by Staff Writers
Ercis (AFP) Oct 23, 2011

USGS puts strength of Turkey's quake at 7.3
Washington (AFP) Oct 23, 2011 - US seismologists have put the strength of an earthquake that hit eastern Turkey early Sunday at 7.3.

The US Geological Survey said the epicenter of the tremor, which occurred at 1041 GMT, was located 19 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of of the city of Van.

The depth of the epicenter was just 7.2 kilometers (4.5 miles), the USGS said.

The reading was based on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale, now used by US seismologists, which measures the area of the fault that ruptured and the total energy released.

An earthquake of 7.3 magnitude rocked eastern Turkey on Sunday, with a seismological institute saying up to 1,000 people could lie dead under the rubble of dozens of collapsed buildings.

Turkey's strongest earthquake in years struck Van, a large eastern city populated mainly by Kurds.

"Five hundred to 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the quake," Mustafa Erdik, director of the Kandilli seismological institute in Istanbul, told reporters.

Earlier reports had not mentioned casualties, but many were feared trapped in collapsed buildings and officials warned they were struggling to assess the extent of the damage.

"There is serious human and material loss," said a brief statement from the national disaster body, which is based in the prime minister's office.

Officials said around 50 buildings had collapsed, including a dormitory.

At least 50 people were taken to hospital in Van and nearly a thousand people in Ercis, a district of around 100,000 people in the same region, where the most serious damage occured, according to media reports.

"Many buildings alongside a major street in Ercis were collapsed," said an AFP photographer at the quake scene.

"There is electricity cut throughout district. People are using lanterns," he said.

Television footage showed panicked residents using shovels and other digging tools trying to rescue people trapped under a collapsed eight-storey building in the city centre.

Seach and rescue teams were using electrical generator lights to help the search for trapped victims as the night fell.

"An eight-storey apartment collapsed," a local from Ercis told AFP.

"There are efforts to rescue people but the loss is big. I myself saw three to four dead," he added.

Most people are expected to spend the night outdoors, with the temperature expected to dip to three degrees Celsius (37 Fahrenheit).

"People are panicked. The telecommunication services have collapsed. We cannot reach anybody," Van Mayor Bekir Kaya told NTV television.

The government was due to send satellite phones to the region, according to media reports.

Six helicopters, including four ambulance helicopters, as well as C-130 military cargo planes were sent to the area carrying tents, food and medicine.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at 7.3 magnitude and said an aftershock of 5.6 magnitude had also been registered. It placed the epicentre of the aftershock, which happened at 1056 GMT, at 19 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of Van.

The depth of the initial quake was 7.2 kilometers (4.5 miles), according to the US seismologists. The depth of the aftershock was 20 kilometers, they added.

The epicentre of the quake, which struck around 1041 GMT, was at Tabanli in Van province, the Kandilli institute said.

The Turkish institute said there were two aftershocks which affected the villages of Ilikaynak and Gedikbulak in particular.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cancelled his official programme and was due to visit the quake region on Sunday, NTV said.

Although the quake damaged Van's airport it did not disrupt the air traffic, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing civilian aviation authorities.

Van, a city of 380,000 mainly Kurdish inhabitants, is more than 1,200 kilometres from the capital Ankara.

The quake was also felt across the border in northwestern Iran, causing some panic in major cities, Iranian media reported, but without any mention of casualties or damage.

The tremors were strong enough to cause "scenes of panic among the population of the cities," according to several Iranian media.

Earthquake-prone Turkey lies atop several fault lines.

In 1999, two strong quakes in the heavily populated and industrialised regions of northwest Turkey left some 20,000 dead.

And a powerful earthquake in the town of Caldiran in Van province killed 3,840 people in 1976.

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Israel offers Turkey aid after quake
Jerusalem (AFP) Oct 23, 2011 - Israel said Sunday it had offered its assistance to Turkey after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the eastern part of the country, despite ongoing tensions between the formerly close allies.

But Turkey had said that for the time being, they would not need it.

Israel's defence ministry is preparing to offer Turkey "any aid they might need," Defence Minister Ehud Barak's office said.

The Israeli embassy in Ankara has also offered the Turkish government humanitarian aid, the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.

An embassy spokesman in Ankara said Israeli President Shimon Peres has called his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, adding: "Peres expressed his sympathy regarding the recent earthquake and offered any help needed."

During the telephone conversation, Peres offered the Israeli assistance and Gul responded: "For the time being we don't believe that any help will be needed. We can manage it," the spokesman told AFP.

Eastern Turkey was struck by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on Sunday afternoon, which the country's seismological institute said may have killed between 500 and 1,000 people.

Ties between Israel and Turkey, once strong allies, have been strained since May 2010, when Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla trying to sail to Gaza in defiance of a blockade, killing nine Turks.

The crisis deepened last month, with Turkey expelling the Israeli ambassador and axing military ties and defence trade.

But despite the frayed relations, the two countries have maintained a tradition of offering each other assistance in times of need.

In December, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent firefighting planes to Israel to help tame a forest fire which killed 44 people, and sent aid to victims of the blaze.

In 1999, relations between the two countries were cemented in part by the aid which Israel sent to assist in the aftermath of two massive earthquakes in northwest Turkey that killed some 20,000 people.


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San Francisco jolted, as California drills Big One
San Francisco (AFP) Oct 20, 2011
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