With a death toll that may surpass 1,000, nearly 300 people have been confirmed dead after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked parts of southeast Turkey on Sunday. News reports confirm that hundreds of mud-brick homes in villages and concrete buildings in two cities tumbled down in the earthquake near the border with Iran. A frantic effort is now underway to free survivors pinned down from the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The quake struck the large eastern city of Van. RawStory reports that at least 50 people were taken to the hospital in the region of the epicenter. The official word from the Kandilli Seismological Institute is that “There is serious human and material loss.” Officials claim about 50 buildings have been razed to the ground, including one dormitory.

The city hit the worst by the 7.2 quake was Ercis, another eastern city of 75,000 close to the Iranian border and one of Turkey’s most earthquake-prone zones – where about 80 multi-story buildings collapsed, AP News reports. “As the rescue work progresses, there is a possibility of the Ercis death toll increasing but the figures are not likely to be scary numbers,” Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin told the news agency.

Tragic stories of multiple deaths, victims struggling to survive while trapped under large slabs of rock, widespread homelessness and even a small prison break have been reported throughout media outlets. One notable, heartbreaking moment occurred in decimated Ercis. An MSNBC report recalls:

In the badly hit city of Ercis, rescuers tried to free one young boy, aged about 10, pinned beneath a concrete slab.  “Be patient, be patient,” they pleaded as the boy whimpered. The lifeless hand of an adult, with a wedding ring, was visible just a few inches in front of his face.

Over 100 aftershocks continually shook the devastated region Monday morning, three of them measuring 4.7 in magnitude. The current death toll, which is expected to rise, is 270, and the number of injured thought to be more than one thousand.

Of the many public figures to speak out in condolence and support, President Barack Obama said, “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Turkish ally in this difficult time, and are ready to assist.” A host of celebs have ‘tweeted’ their support, including Rihanna who said, “Turkey, we’re praying for all of you Pray 4 Turkey.”


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