Turkey Earthquake: Five Found Alive as Rescue Effort Continues

One man used cell phone to get help for himself and others.

ByABC News
October 24, 2011, 3:20 AM

Oct. 24, 2011— -- Rescuers scrabbling through the rubble of Turkey's powerful earthquake pulled five people to safety today including two children and a man who used his cell phone to lead searchers to his location.

The rescues came 24 hours after a 7.2 magnitude quake rattled a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Turkey Sunday, destroying buildings and killing 279.

Yalcin Akay called a police emergency line after suffering a leg injury and getting buried underneath the rubble of a six-story building, the Associated Press reported.

Four others included two children who were rescued from the same building and a 21-year-old woman who had been trapped for about 27 hours.

Powerful aftershocks with magnitudes of up to 6.0 were felt within 10 hours of the initial tremblor.

The Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin Sahin said that 80 multi-story buildings had collapsed in the town of Ercis, with people trapped in 40 of them.

"Rescue work is ongoing, especially at buildings where [rescuers] have determined survivors," Sahin said.

The death toll is expected to rise, but as severely as originally thought.

"There could be around 100 people (in the rubble)," Sahin said. "But we are not talking about thousands."

Ercis Hardest Hit by Tremblor

The quake's epicenter was in the village of Tabanli, near the city of Van close to the Iranian border, the AP reported.

With a population of 75,000, Ercis was the hardest hit by the quake. About 55 miles south, Van also sustained major damage. Turkey is highly susceptible to earthquakes as it sits on major geological fault lines.

The quake, which hit at 1:41 p.m. local time Sunday, was upgraded from a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 to 7.3 magnitude. The U.S. Geological Survey later revised the magnitude to 7.2.

The depth of the epicenter was considered shallow -- 12.4 miles, shallower than the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010 -- and more potentially destructive, combined with the poor building codes in the region.

According to the Hakki Erskoy with the Turkish Red Crescent, there were at least 120 aftershocks on Sunday. Erskoy said that the high number aftershocks isn't affecting the search and rescue efforts, as most of the families have moved from their homes and settled in tents.

Residents spent the night outdoors and lit campfires, while others sought shelter with relatives in nearby villages.

Most of these buildings in the affected part of Turkey are not built up to a code that would protect against earthquakes. Turkey does have fairly stringent building codes but a lot of the buildings are just ignored or they are not enforced. It is estimated that only one-third of buildings in Turkey comply with codes.

The city of Van's mayor Bekir Kaya told NTV television that the "telephone system is jammed due to panic and we can't assess the entire damage immediately."

State-run media reported rescue crews were working to free people who were trapped under a seven-story building that collapsed.

Residents of Van and neighboring towns poured into the streets as the strong aftershocks rocked the area Sunday.

The last major earthquake to hit the country was in 1999, when 18,000 people were killed, according the AP.

President Obama said Sunday he has been following the reports on the quake.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the brave men and women who are working to bring assistance to this stricken region. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Turkish ally in this difficult time, and are ready to assist the Turkish authorities," Obama said in a statement.

ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.