Hundreds Still Trapped Under Rubble, as Turkey Fears Earthquake Aftershocks

Haaretz writer sends special report from site of 7.2 quake in Turkey's east, as the death toll from the country's latest natural disaster reaches 270.

Residents of Van in eastern Turkey, where yesterday’s earthquake hit hardest, are preparing for another night of sleep in the streets, due to fears of aftershocks that could cause the collapse of more of the city’s buildings.

The death toll caused by the forceful earthquake, measured to be 7.2 on the Richter scale, reached 270 by Monday. Another 1,300 people were injured, and thousands of buildings collapsed. Turkish officials suspect that the death toll is set to rise, as hundreds are still trapped under the rubble.

Turkey quake - AP - 24.10.2011

Vendors in the city are selling plastic sheets and string, which residents are using in order to build temporary shelter. Tents have also been built in backyards of residential homes. Scores of injured people continuously arrive at local hospitals, although rescue forces are struggling to evacuate those trapped under building ruins.

Tens of thousands of people will sleep outside their homes Monday night, and despite the difficult weather conditions, they are lighting bonfires in order to keep warm. Some of them have lost their homes, and others are worried about the possibility of more aftershocks. Three significant aftershocks rocked eastern Turkey since the initial quake, two of them reaching 5.6 and another hitting 6 on the Richter scale.

Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyep Erdogan visited the area, and thanked the countries which offered to assist Turkey, but stated that his country would be able to contend with the disaster by itself. However, eyewitness accounts state that there is a dearth of rescue teams, along with equipment necessary to provide rescue. Nearly 80 buildings collapsed in the city of Arjesh, near the Iranian border, including a hotel. Meanwhile, 10 buildings collapsed in Van.

The mayor of Arjesh, a city which sustained enormous damage, stated that the city “needs immediate medical aid.” Quake survivors complained about a lack of equipment that would aid rescue workers in evacuating those who were trapped between collapsed building floors. Van’s mayor added that “there are many people trapped under the rubble, we are able to hear their screams and their cries for help. We need help urgently.”