ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.2 struck eastern Turkey Sunday, collapsing some buildings and causing a number of deaths according to officials.
The temblor struck eastern Van province at 1:41 p.m. (1041 GMT; 6:41 a.m. EDT), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It caused widespread panic throughout the province as well as neighboring cities.
It toppled some buildings in downtown Van as well as the neighboring town of Ercis, officials said. Several strong aftershocks were also reported.
"There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed, there is too much destruction," said Zulfikar Arapoglu, the mayor of Ercis told NTV television. "We need urgent aid, we need medics."
Residents spilled out into the streets in panic as rescue workers struggled to evacuate people, believed to be trapped under collapsed buildings, television footage showed.
In Van, at least two buildings collapsed, Bekir Kaya, the mayor of Van, told NTV. One of them was a seven-story building, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.
"The telephone system is jammed due to panic and we can't assess the entire damage immediately," Kaya said.
The USGS originally gave the magnitude as 7.3 but later corrected it to 7.2. It said the quake had a depth of 20 kilometers (12.4 miles), which is relatively shallow and could potentially cause more damage.
Turkey's Kandilli observatory gave it a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 but put its depth at 5 kilometers. Several aftershocks as strong as magnitude 5.5 followed, the observatory said.
The quake's epicenter was in the village of Tabanli in eastern Van province, bordering Iran. But it was felt in several provinces across the area.
Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is crossed by faultlines.
In 1999, about 18,000 people were killed by two powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Turkey.
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