7.2-magnitude earthquake slams Turkey; at many as 1,000 feared dead

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Rescue workers try to save people trapped under debris after an earthquake in a village near the eastern Turkish city of Van October 23, 2011. Turkey's Kandilli Observatory estimates that some 500 to 1,000 people were killed in a powerful earthquake in southeast Turkey's Van province on Sunday, broadcaster CNN Turk reported. Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told reporters some 10 buildings had collapsed in Van city and around 25-30 buildings collapsed in the nearby district of Ercis. (Reuters Pictures)
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VAN, Turkey (Reuters) - As many as 1,000 people were feared killed Sunday when a powerful earthquake struck Turkey, collapsing dozens of buildings and pulling down phone and power lines in the southeast of the country, officials and witnesses said.

Emergency workers battled to rescue people trapped in buildings in the city of Van and surrounding districts on the banks of Lake Van, near Turkey's border with Iran.

"We heard cries and groaning from underneath the debris, we are waiting for the rescue teams to arrive," Halil Celik, a young man who lived in the center of the city, told Reuters as he stood beside the ruins of building that had collapsed before his eyes.

"All of a sudden, a quake tore down the building in front of me. All the bystanders, we all ran to the building and rescued two injured people from the ruins."

Turkey's Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck at 1041 GMT and was five kilometres (three miles) deep.

Around 10 buildings collapsed in Van city and about 25-30 buildings were brought to the ground in the nearby district of Ercis, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told reporters.

"We estimate around 1,000 buildings are damaged and our estimate is for hundreds of lives lost. It could be 500 or 1,000," Kandilli Observatory general manager Mustafa Erdik told a news conference.

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