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Koray Peközkay via Twitpic

85 killed – and likely more – after major earthquake in eastern Turkey

The town of Erdis is ravaged by a 7.2-magnitude quake, with officials fearing that the ultimate death toll may reach four digits.

AT LEAST 85 people have now been declared dead following an earthquake in eastern Turkey this morning.

The 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck at 11:40am Irish time, around 12 miles northeast of the town of Yan, which has a population of around 400,000.

The depth of the quake is comparatively shallow, and could mean more damage than would be otherwise sustained. A series of aftershocks – measuring up to 5.6 in magnitude – have since been registered by the US Geological Survey.

“The quake was strongly felt in Van and neighbouring towns, and caused damage and deaths based on initial assessments,” a statement from the Turkish prime minister’s office said.

The mayor of Ercis, a town around 60 kilometres north of Van, told NTV television: “There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed. There is too much destruction… We need urgent aid. We need medics.

Veysel Keser added:

There are many people under the rubble. People are in agony, we can hear their screams for help. We need urgent help.

It’s a great disaster. Many buildings have collapsed, student dormitories, hotels and gas stations have collapsed.”

TRV reported that at least 59 people had been killed in that town; 25 died in the town of Van, and a child died in a neighbouring province.

It is feared that the death toll will extend into the hundreds if not thousands, however; around 80 buildings have collapsed in Ecris, and around ten buildings – including an eight-storey tower – are known to have collapsed in Van.

AP cited Turkish Red Crescent sources who said the buildings in Ercis included a number of apartment complexes and a dormitory.

The head of the Kandilli Observatory, Turkey’s main seismology institute, told a news conference that the death toll “could be 500 or 1,000″, adding that around 1,000 buildings could be damaged in total.

Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is crossed by major seismic faultlines. In 1999, about 18,000 people were killed by two powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Turkey.

Additional reporting by AP

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