Turkey is pursuing non-stop rescue operations in a desperate attempt to search for missing people who are believed to be trapped under debris in the aftermath of a massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Survivors and emergency service workers have been looking for people amidst mounds of concrete and debris with shovels and bare hands.
The "killer" quake has claimed the lives of more than 270 people and injured more than 1,300 people, according to a report in Reuters. The tremors, with the epicenter in the village of Tabanlı, north of the city of Van, were also felt in the city center of Van as well as the neighboring provinces of Bitlis, Muş, Batman, Diyarbakır and Hakkari.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, said the death toll could rise, as more and more victims and bodies are found amid the rubble. He further added that Ercis was the worst-hit province, after a 55-apartment building collapsed in the aftermath.
"Because the buildings are made of adobe, they are more vulnerable to earthquakes. I must say that almost all buildings in such villages are destroyed," said Erdogan, in a news conference.
In a report from The Daily Telegraph, rescue teams from the state's Search and Rescue Association had been sent to surrounding provinces and cities of Istanbul and Kocaeli.
A crisis center was set up by the country's Health Ministry in the capital city of Ankara. The Prime Minister's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate said more than 500 search, rescue and health personnel, from nearly 40 provinces, were sent to. According to TRT, a Turkey-based television channel, a total of 275 rescue teams from 38 provinces had reached the affected province.
Recep Akdag, the Health Minister, said an air ambulance and several helicopters had been sent to the earthquake zone.
According to the crisis centre, rescue teams (a total of 500 people) have been deployed on the ground and additional aid teams were dispatched from 29 surrounding cities. For the injured, two tent hospitals were being set up in Ercis and two cargo planes carrying medical teams and aid have been dispatched. The army has deployed two battalions of soldiers to assist rescue workers and digging machines during the relief operations.
To facilitate medical services for the injured, a tent city will be set up at the Ercis sports stadium.
"We are working on supplying people with places to spend the night, find shelter. One hundred tents are being erected in the city stadium now, and 700 more will be put up in the municipality stadium," said Idris Naim Sahin, Interior Minister, according to a report in Reuters.
The Turkish Red Crescent in Van, the country's largest humanitarian organization, has sent more than 1,000 tents and 500 food packages for quake-hit people, despite ongoing aftershocks, according to report in Anatolia.
Meanwhile, international help has also been pouring from countries around the world including the UK, U.S., Germany, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland and Greece after the earthquake.
"The UK is ready to provide assistance, in line with any request from the Turkish authorities. We stand with Turkey at this difficult time," said William Hague, the Foreign Secretary of the UK.
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said he was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction in the earthquake and pledged the readiness of the United Nations to assist if requested.
However, Erdogan said Turkey was able to meet the challenge itself. He later thanked the countries that had offered help, including Armenia and Israel.