Catholic Relief Services is supporting emergency rescue efforts underway in Turkey, where a devastating earthquake killed more than 200 people, injured hundreds more and led to the collapse of hundreds of buildings.
The 7.2 magnitude tremor struck Sunday afternoon in the eastern cities of Ercis and Van, located in a mountainous region near Turkey’s border with Iran. The death toll is expected to rise in the surrounding villages, where almost all of the mud-brick homes have been destroyed.
Rescue teams are still digging through the remains of dozens of collapsed multi-story buildings. At least 80 buildings collapsed in Ercis and about 40 buildings there had people trapped beneath the rubble. In Van, one hotel, the university hospital and two dormitories are among the 30 multi-story buildings that have totally collapsed.
Many of the rescue efforts are being carried out with shovels, picks and bare hands in near-freezing temperatures. A Turkish news agency reported that 24 people were pulled alive from the rubble two hours after the quake struck.
An emergency response team from Caritas Turkey is on its way to the earthquake site to determine what the most pressing immediate and longer-term needs are. CRS is also supporting International Blue
Crescent, which has launched an emergency response effort. An IBC representative in Van, a town of 70,000, reports a chaotic situation there, with residents in dire need of makeshift shelters, and roads that are heavily damaged—creating logistical problems for rescue efforts.
In the initial response, CRS will support efforts to provide up to 2,000 families with various relief supplies, including hygiene kits, heaters and blankets.
Turkey is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on major geological fault lines.
The weekend’s earthquake was the worst natural disaster since 1999, when two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 hit northwest Turkey, killing 18,000.
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