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6.4 Quake Kills 37 in Turkey's Southeast

May 01, 2003|Amberin Zaman | Special to The Times

ADANA, Turkey — A powerful earthquake shook Turkey's largely Kurdish southeastern province of Bingol early today, killing at least 37 people and wounding hundreds of others as it flattened buildings.

The magnitude 6.4 quake, which struck at 3:27 a.m. and lasted 17 seconds, was also felt in the neighboring provinces of Tunceli, Batman and Diyarbakir.

Huseyin Onen, the deputy governor of Bitlis province, said many buildings, including a hospital and a boys boarding school housing 200 pupils in the town of Bingol had been badly damaged. Turkish television reports said a dormitory collapsed, trapping scores of students. Rescuers said 50 children had been freed, but it was unclear how many remained trapped or were dead. The Anatolia news agency said voices could be heard under the debris.

Elsewhere in town, women wept as soldiers and civilians dug into the rubble of apartments.

A hospital doctor reported seeing 14 bodies from the town.

"People refuse to return to their homes. They are very, very frightened, and we fear there may be many losses," said Ilhami Antli, a local official.

In Ankara, the capital, Housing Minister Zeki Ergezen said unconfirmed reports estimated as many as 150 deaths.

Television footage showed dozens of homes destroyed in the town of Cimenli, with many people roaming its streets. At least 13 people were killed there, NTV television said.

"Everything is destroyed. There are no buildings standing," said a man helping with rescues.

Panicked residents fled their homes amid continuing aftershocks. Power and telephone lines were damaged.

Lying on the North Anatolian fault line, Turkey has sustained a series of devastating temblors. One of the deadliest took place in August 1999 in northwestern Turkey, killing at least 17,000 people.

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