August 21, 2017

Turkey earthquake rescuers in race against time

Rescuers in Turkey - Few natural events can change lives in an instant like an earthquake.

Rescue teams in Turkey are continuing to search for people trapped under rubble after 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the eastern Van region on Sunday.

Some 265 people died and 1,140 have been injured according to Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin, and the death toll is expected to rise after outlying areas are reached.

Nearly 1,000 buildings have been destroyed in the disaster zone, with the town of Ercis the worst hit.

Rescuers pulled out several survivors from beneath the ruins of collapsed buildings in Ercis on Monday – including one man who called for help on his mobile phone.

Cranes and heavy equipment are lifting slabs of concrete in Ercis and the larger city of Van as rescue crews cut through steel reinforcing bars and shift rubble in the search for more survivors.

The interior minister said he believed dozens of people were trapped in buildings in Ercis but not as many as initially feared.

Ercis town occupies a beautiful site overlooking Lake Van, surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

“There could be around 100 people [in the rubble],” the Associated Press news agency quoted Mr Sahin as saying.

“It could be more or it could be less but we are not talking about thousands.”

He said 169 people had died in Ercis and 96 in the Van area.

Up to 80 buildings, including a student dormitory, collapsed in Ercis, about 100km north of Van, while 10 fell in Van itself.

The office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a total of 970 buildings in the earthquake zone had collapsed.

Search crews and heavy machinery are still at work at some destroyed buildings, but at other sites the recovery effort seems to have stopped altogether, with only a few despairing and shocked relatives sitting around.

On Sunday, Mr Erdogan visited the area and said he feared for residents of outlying villages that rescue workers had not yet reached.

“Because the buildings are made of mud brick, they are more vulnerable to quakes,” said Mr Erdogan.

“I must say that almost all buildings in such villages are destroyed.”

Some 2,400 rescue workers are involved in the relief effort, as are 680 medics, 12 rescue dogs and 108 ambulances – including seven air ambulances, the prime minister’s office said.

Prime Minister Erdogan thanked other countries for their offers of help, but said Turkey could cope with the disaster on its own.