6.6 Earthquake Hits East Turkey; Some 50 Casualties Reported

Earthquake reportedly felt in central Tel Aviv as well; Turkish PM: Quake caused damage, loss of life; two large quakes in 1999 killed more than 20,000 people in country's southeast.

A magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit near Van in southeastern Turkey on Sunday, Turkey's Kandilli Observatory and Research Institute said, and state-run media reported some buildings had collapsed and 50 people had been injured.

The Geophysical Institute of Israel indicated that the quake was also felt in residential high rises in central Tel Aviv.


The office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan released a statement according to which the strong jolt caused much damage as well as loss of life, without specifying further.

The Kandilli Observatory and Research Institute said the earthquake struck at 1041 GMT and was 5 km deep. The U.S. Geological Survey earlier reported that the magnitude was 7.6.

Some buildings collapsed and emergency teams were trying to rescue people believed to be trapped in a building in Van, near the Iranian border, state-run news agency Anatolian said.

It said 50 injured people had been taken to hospital in Van, but did not give details on how serious their injuries were.

"A lot of buildings collapsed, many people killed, but we don't know the number. We are waiting for emergency help, its very urgent," Zulfukar Arapoglu, the mayor of Ercis district, which was hit badly, told the news broadcaster NTV.

"We need tents urgently and rescue teams. We don't have any ambulances, and we only have one hospital. We have many killed and injured," he said.

The Turkish Red Crescent reported that 25 apartment buildings and one dormitory in the eastern town of Ercis have collapsed. The Red Crescent says its rescuers have pulled several injured people out of the collapsed dormitory.

Television pictures showed damaged buildings and vehicles, crushed under falling masonry, and panicked residents wandering in the streets.

Turkish media said phone lines and electricity had been cut off. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will head to Van to see the damage, media reported.

Aftershocks continued after the initial quake, whose epicenter was at the village of Tabanli, north of Van city, the agency said.

In Hakkari, a town around 100 km south of the city of Van in southeastern Turkey, a building could be felt swaying for around 10 seconds during the quake.

There was no immediate sign of any casualties or damage in Hakkari, around two and half hours drive through the mountains from Van, around 20 km from the epicenter.

Major geological fault lines cross Turkey and small earthquakes are a near daily occurrence. Two large quakes in 1999 killed more than 20,000 people in northwest Turkey.

Two people were killed and 79 injured in May when an earthquake shook Simav in northwest Turkey.