At least 138 dead in Turkey earthquake; toll expected to rise

At least 138 bodies have been found after a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit Turkey's southeastern Van province Sunday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said early Monday.

More than 350 people were injured in the quake, he told Turkey's TRT television.

Erdogan, who inspected the disaster area, said 93 bodies were recovered in Van city in Van province and another 45 in the worst-hit town of Ercis, also located in the same province.

Almost all the houses were destroyed in several villages in Van province. Most of the houses there were made of sun-dried mud bricks, Erdogan said.

More than 18 aftershocks, measuring magnitude-4 and above, occurred.

The Turkish earthquake observatory earlier said the toll could reach 1,000.

"The toll from this earthquake could be 500 to 1,000," Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute in Turkey's largest city of Istanbul, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

The Istanbul-based Kandilli seismology centre originally reported that the earthquake was 6.6 on the Richter scale, but later revised it up to 7.2.

The epicentre was located in the village of Tabanli in Van province, which borders Iran.

TV footage showed residents spilling out into the streets in panic as rescue workers struggled to save people believed to be trapped under collapsed buildings.

"There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed. There is so much destruction. We need urgent aid, we need medics," Ercis mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu told NTV television.

Turkish Red Crescent is sending tents, blankets and other aid materials to the quake-hit province, according to Anatolia.

Turkey, lying atop the North Anatolian fault, is plagued by frequent earthquakes. On March 8, 2010, at least 38 people died after a magnitude-6 earthquake hit Elazig province.

On Aug 17, 1999, two powerful earthquakes, measuring 6.7 and 7.4, hit northwestern and western Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.

A major earthquake had hit Van in November 1976, with 5,291 confirmed dead. The province has a population of just over one million.

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