A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey today, killing at least 85 people and sparking widespread panic as it collapsed dozens of buildings into piles of twisted steel and chunks of concrete. Tens of thousands of residents fled into the streets running, screaming, and trying to reach relatives on cell phones. As the full extent of the damage became clear, desperate survivors dug into the rubble with their bare hands, trying to rescue the trapped and the injured.
"There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed, there is too much destruction," the mayor for the town of Ercis said. "We need urgent aid, we need medics." Israel offered aid despite a rift between the two countries, but so far Turkey has declined. Turkey's state-run television said a group of inmates escaped from a prison after the earthquake struck. The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.6, and several aftershocks as strong as magnitude 5.5 followed; the quake's epicenter was in the village of Tabanli in eastern Van province, bordering Iran. Click here for the USGS report on the earthquake.