A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Sunday at 1:41 p.m. local time, and experts estimate it may have killed as many as 1,000 people, The Associated Press reports.
"We are estimating a death toll between 500 and 1,000," Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli observatory, Turkey’s main seismography center, said at a televised press conference. After the initial quake, there were at least seven aftershocks the U.S. Geological Survey and Turkish monitoring agencies said, according to CNN.
The epicenter of the quake was in the village of Tabanli in Van province, 10 miles from the provincial capital of Van, near Turkey’s border with Iran, the AP reports. Tremors also shook buildings in northwestern Iran and the Armenian capital of Yerevan, 100 miles from Ercis.
About 7 hours after the quake, local news agencies were reporting at least 85 deaths, according to the AP. Dozens of buildings had collapsed, including at least 25 apartment buildings, a student dormitory and part of a hospital, in the town of Ercis on the north shore of Lake Van, CNN reports. At least 10 buildings had collapsed in Van, the AP reports. Some highways also caved in, according to CNN-Turk television.
The quake destroyed buildings in the district of Celebibag, near Ercis, too. "There are many people under the rubble," Veysel Keser, mayor of Celebibag, told local television station NTV, Time Magazine reports. "People are in agony, we can hear their screams for help. We need urgent help."
According to CNN:
The last quake of that magnitude in Turkey – a 7.2 tremor in Duzce in 1999 – killed 894 people, the USGS reported. A 7.6 earthquake in Izmit, Turkey, killed more than 17,000 people the same year, according to the USGS.
Throughout the afternoon and into the night, rescuers were searching the rubble of the collapsed buildings, shouting to trapped survivors to make themselves known, Reuters reports.