Officials said at least 279 people had been killed and more than 1,000 injured in the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that shook this vast region of undulating plains and snowcapped mountains in eastern Turkey on Sunday afternoon, destroying scores of buildings.
Casualty figures were expected to continue to rise because hundreds more people were thought to be trapped in collapsed buildings, including many multistory apartment blocks.
Scientists from Turkey’s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said 1,000 people may have perished given the force of the quake and the scale of destruction. The earthquake, centered in the village of Tabanli, was also felt in nearby Iran and Armenia.
Damage was especially severe in Van, the provincial capital, and in Ercis, a city near the Iranian border.
Rescue dogs combed the debris for signs of life. Diggers prowled deep through the concrete, pausing to allow rescuers to listen for sounds of life. Men eschewed heavy machinery for pick axes when they thought they found areas where victims might be trapped.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that many rural mud-brick homes had collapsed.
The Turkish Red Crescent erected tents and provided other assistance. Families joined long queues for hot meals of pasta and beans.
Many residents waited to hear about their loved ones.
-- Ruth Sherlock
Photo: People in Van, Turkey, search for earthquake survivors Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. Credit: Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters