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Powerful earthquake hits Turkey

by Jorge Hernandez on October 24, 2011

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey near its border with Iran on Sunday morning, leaving at least 200 people dead as rescuers desperately sift through the rubble looking for more survivors. More than 700 people are said to be injured, but according to The Guardian, casualties are expected to rise sharply.

The hardest-hit areas were the cities of Ercis and Van, and officials say that dozens buildings had collapsed in the two cities combined. In Ecris, the number of destroyed buildings is believed to be at 80, with people trapped in at least half of them.

In addition to the scores of injured citizens, Turkish officials are also concerned about how to provide shelter for the hundreds left homeless. The night after the quake, authorities say that many refugees spent the night with relatives or built campfires while The Red Crescent gathered up supplies including thousands of tents, blankets and food.

"There are many people under the rubble," district mayor Celebibag Veysel Keser told the local television station NTV. "People are in agony, we can hear their screams for help. We need urgent help."

Despite the destruction, Turkey has thus far declined aid from a number of foreign countries including former strategic ally Israel, whose relationship with the country has soured over the last several months following the Israeli killing of nine Turks in 2010.

"At this difficult time Israel is willing to provide any aid required anywhere in Turkey and at any time," Israeli President Shimon Peres told Turkey's president Abdullah Gul, according to Reuters.

Turkey is no stranger to seismic activity. Much of the country is located on a fault line, but this is the first significant earthquake to strike the nation since 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake hit the northwestern part of Turkey. Official estimates put the death toll at around 17,000, but some have said it could be as high as 35,000.

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