Bloomberg News

Turkey Seeks Quake Survivors as Snow Nears, Death Toll Rises

October 25, 2011

(Updates death toll in second paragraph, adds president’s visit in eighth and ninth.)

Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Turkish emergency rescue teams are working around the clock as the eastern province of Van braces for snow and the death toll rises after the country’s worst earthquake in more than a decade.

The 7.2-magnitude quake on Oct. 23 killed at least 432 people, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said in a statement on its website, raising the toll from the 279 announced late yesterday. Temperatures in Van will range from 2 to 13 degrees Celsius (36 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit) and this afternoon’s rain is expected to turn to snow in the evening, according to the Turkish State Meteorological Service.

The government says it has dispatched more than 4,300 rescue and health workers to the province on the Iranian border. Television stations showed emergency-response teams working to remove people from the rubble. The quake destroyed at least 2,262 buildings and as many as 1,000 people may have died, according to government officials.

“It’ll be a miracle for people to emerge alive after this point,” Kadir Ilacoglu, 30, whose apartment was damaged by multiple cracks, said in a telephone interview. He said his family has been camping in his father’s garden because they are scared of aftershocks, while a friend’s father was saved from under the rubble.

500 Aftershocks

Towns and villages across the province of 1 million people have been hit by more than 500 aftershocks since the quake struck at 1:41 p.m. local time two days ago, the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute in Istanbul said on its website.

The earthquake, 5 kilometers (3 miles) below the surface, was the biggest since 1976 in Van, which lies just south of Mount Ararat. Earthquakes are on average 30 to 40 kilometers deep and shallow ones cause more damage, Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli observatory, said.

It’s the worst natural disaster in Turkey since 1999, when a quake east of Istanbul killed more than 17,000 people.

President Abdullah Gul said he will visit Van and may cancel Oct. 29 celebrations to mark the 88th anniversary of the republic’s founding.

“Our brothers in Van will see that they are never alone,” Gul said in televised comments from Ankara. “I don’t want to disrupt our emergency workers in the region, therefore I will wait a little bit longer and go there as soon as possible.”

Rescue Teams

Rescue teams speaking to the NTV news channel said they have been working non-stop since arriving at Van, walking the rubble day and night and looking for signs of life.

The Turkish Red Crescent said 17,239 tents and 34,310 blankets have reached the region and another 8,668 tents will be delivered later today. The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, tied to Erdogan’s office, said more than 5,000 heaters and 10,000 boxes of food arrived in the region.

There is a “serious lack of coordination” in the distribution of aid to victims, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told his party’s members in the Ankara parliament today. He visited Van yesterday.

People complain about lack of tents and there are also electricity and water shortages in the province, Kilicdaroglu said. “They say we don’t want food, we don’t want bread, we want tents.”

--Editors: Ben Holland, Heather Langan, Louis Meixler, Digby Lidstone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emre Peker in Ankara at epeker2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Louis Meixler in Jerusalem at lmeixler@bloomberg.net.


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