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Turkey battles to save quake survivors

world Updated: Oct 25, 2011 01:35 IST

A survivor of the 7.2-magnitude quake that leveled buildings and killed some 270 people in eastern Turkey was pulled from the rubble with three other people on Monday after he managed to call for help from his cell phone.

Dozens of people were trapped in mounds of concrete and twisted steel after over a hundred buildings pancaked or partially collapsed on Sunday in the mountainous area, but authorities offered hope that the death toll may not rise as high as initially feared.

Officials said hundreds of mud-brick homes in villages and concrete buildings in two cities tumbled down in the earthquake that struck near the border with Iran. Worst-hit was Ercis, an eastern city of 75,000 close to the Iranian border and one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones, where about 80 multi-storey buildings collapsed.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/251011/25_10_pg17a.jpg

Yalcin Akay was dug out from a collapsed six-storey building with a leg injury after he called a police emergency line on his phone and described his location, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Three other people, including two children, were also rescued from the same building in Ercis some 20 hours after the quake struck, officials said.

Rescuers searched for the missing throughout the night under generator-powered floodlights as families members waited by the mounds of debris.

Aid groups scrambled to set up tents, field hospitals and kitchens to assist thousands left homeless or who were afraid to re-enter their homes.

"We stayed outdoors all night, I could not sleep at all, my children, especially the little one, was terrified," said Serpil Bilici of her six-year-old daughter, Rabia.

"I grabbed her and rushed out when the quake hit, we were all screaming."

Over 100 aftershocks rocked the area this morning, with three of them reaching 4.7 magnitude.

The bustling, larger city of Van, about 90 kilometres south of Ercis, also sustained substantial damage, but interior minister Idris Naim Sahin said search efforts there were winding down.

Sahin expected the death toll in Ercis to rise, but not as substantially as initially feared.

"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," he said.

The minister told Associated Press Television that around 270 were killed and more than a thousand others were injured.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who inspected the area last night, said "close to all" mud-brick homes in surrounding villages had collapsed in the temblor that also rattled parts of Iran and Armenia.