A powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey today, killing at least 60 people as it collapsed buildings into piles of twisted steel and chunks of concrete. Desperate survivors dug into the rubble with their bare hands, trying to rescue the trapped and injured. State-run TRT television reported that 45 people were killed and 150 injured in the eastern town of Ercis, and 15 others died in the provincial center of Van. Turkish scientists estimated that up to 1,000 people could already be dead, due to low housing standards in the area and the size of the quake.
Ercis, a city of 75,000 in the mountainous province of Van close to the Iranian border, was the hardest hit. It lies on the Ercis Fault in one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones. As many as 80 buildings collapsed in Ercis, including a dormitory, and 10 buildings collapsed in Van, the Turkish Red Crescent said. Some highways also caved in, CNN-Turk television reported. "There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed. There is too much destruction," Ercis mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu told NTV television. "We need urgent aid. We need medics."