Strong quake leaves 57 dead in Turkey

OKCULAR: A powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey today buried villagers as they slept in mud-brick houses, killing at least 57 and injuring scores more, officials said.

The quake, which measured 6.0 on the Richter scale, struck at 4:32 am (0232 GMT) at a depth of five km, with an epicentre near the Karakocan town in Elazig province, the Istanbul-based Kandilli observatory said.

Rescuers struggled to dig survivors from the rubble after the tremor tore down mud-brick houses in several mountainous villages in the mainly Kurdish area, killing whole families

in their sleep.

Visiting the region, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek put the death toll at 57, adding that more than 50 people were injured.

At least four of the dead were children, official said, and nine of the injured were in critical condition. “It started shaking — first slowly and then violently. I was terrified and began crying... The cupboard fell over and then the television set exploded,” said Zeynep Yuksel, a teenage girl in the worst-hit village of Okcular.

A total of 18 people perished in Okcular, a Kurdish settlement of some 900 people, nestled in hills at a height of about 1,800 metres.

Wrapped in blankets and cuddling babies, women wailed around a bonfire as Red Crescent workers began erecting tents and distributing food and other emergency supplies to survivors.

“I rushed out after the tremor, looked to one side and saw nothing, then looked to the other side — again nothing. Everything had collapsed,” a middle-age woman said. “I pulled out the two kids from the rubble with bare hands. They were both dead,” said the woman, who lost a sister-in-law and two nephews in the quake.

Villagers scrambled to recover any valuables from the debris, and some left for nearby towns to take shelter with relatives. About 30 houses were destroyed in Okcular alone, Yasar Cagribay, head of a rescue team, told CNN Turk.

The quake also killed many

livestock, the main livelihood

for the village.

In nearby Yukari Demirci, 13 people were killed, among them a family of nine. The villages of Yukari Kanatli, Kayalik and Gocmezler were also seriously hit.

“Villages consisting mainly of mud-brick houses have been damaged, but we have minimal damage such as cracks in buildings made of cement or stone,” provincial governor Muammer Erol said.