At Least 570 Reported Dead in Powerful Eastern Turkey Quake

From Associated Press

A strong earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Friday, killing more than 570 people, the semiofficial Anatolia news agency reported.

Ahmet Karabilgin, the governor of Sivas province, told the semiofficial Anatolia news agency that at least 500 bodies were pulled from the wreckage in Erzincan, the city worst hit by the quake, about 350 miles east of Ankara.

Fikret Cuhadaroglu, the governor of Erzincan province, said 78 people were reported dead in towns in the eastern part of the province.

Cuhadaroglu said one-quarter of Erzincan's city center was reduced to rubble, with 200 buildings collapsed.

"All of a sudden I saw the wall coming down and the city swinging like a cradle. I still hear the cries of my son calling for me," Ahmet Elden, an Erzincan resident, told Anatolia. His wife and four children were buried under the wreckage of his apartment building. He was pulled out by his neighbors, Anatolia said.

"Dead bodies were everywhere in the city center," said an unidentified man in a hospital bed interviewed by state television.

The quake is the worst in Turkey since 1983, when a temblor in Erzurum claimed 1,330 lives. The intensity of that earthquake was put at 7.1.

State television said Friday's quake had a 6.2 magnitude and struck Erzincan, Erzurum and another province, Bingol. The U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., calculated it was even stronger, measuring 6.8.

Panicked residents in the quake-hit provinces were spending the night outdoors despite freezing temperatures, according to the television.

The quake caused an avalanche that closed the railway between Erzincan and Erzurum, Anatolia said.

The news agency reported at least five people were killed and six others injured when a mosque collapsed in Sogutlu village in northern Gumushane province, next to Erzincan.

Cuhadaroglu said two hotels, eight office blocks, a hospital building, a medical school and many apartment buildings "had totally collapsed," the television reported.

The governor said 62 students were buried under the wreckage of the school. He said only two people were rescued from the debris of other buildings.

He also said heavy damage was reported in poor residential areas at the city outskirts.

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