Dormitory collapses in Turkey after quake

Thursday, May 1, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey -- At least 135 children were buried in a collapsed school dormitory after a strong earthquake struck southeastern Turkey, a provincial governor said earlier today.

Gov. Huseyin Avni Cos told private NTV television he did not know if any of the children were killed.

The quake collapsed buildings and sent panicked residents into the streets of several towns, officials said. At least 13 people were reported killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in one village, according to television reports.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4, struck around 3:30 a.m. and was centered just outside the city of Bingol, about 430 miles east of Ankara, the Kandilli seismology center in Istanbul said. The temblor was felt in several surrounding provinces.

Nihat Bartamay, who was helping the rescue effort in the village of Cimenli, near Bingol, said he had pulled 13 bodies out of several collapsed homes.

"Everything is destroyed. There are no buildings standing," Bartamay said, speaking on private NTV television.

Television footage showed hundreds of people roaming the streets of Cimenli and dozens of mud homes destroyed. A number of strong aftershocks struck the area, including one with a magnitude 5, NTV reported.

"The quake lasted 17 seconds and we think that it was a quake which could cause considerable damage," Gulay Barbarasoglu, head of the observatory, told Turkish state television.

Feyzullah Karaaslan, Bingol's mayor, said the quake had caused cracks in a number of buildings and collapsed others.

Provincial Gov. Huseyin Cos said a dormitory that housed 200 primary and middle school students in Bingol had collapsed. There was no immediate word on the students' fate.

The quake damaged power lines and generating equipment and telephone lines in the area and electricity was cut. Mobile phone service also appeared to be out in Bingol.

A magnitude 6 quake can cause severe damage.

Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which lies on the active North Anatolian fault.

Ruptures in the fault caused two quakes in August 1999 that killed some 18,000 people and devastated large parts of northwestern Turkey.

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