27 Oct 2011

Turkish earthquake toll climbs past 500

9:46 pm on 27 October 2011

The authorities in Turkey say the number of people known to have been killed in last Sunday's earthquake in the southeast of the country has risen to 523.

Aid agencies warn, however, that "hundreds, possibly thousands" of people may still be trapped under rubble.

Officials say 1650 people were injured in the 7.2-magnitude quake, which had its epicentre in Van province.

They say they have rescued 185 people alive so far.

A 19-year-old student was pulled from the rubble on Thursday after being trapped for more than 90 hours. Television footage showed the exhausted student emerging from the debris in the town of Ercis, one of the worst-hit places.

Rain and snow are hindering the rescue effort and making life more difficult for the thousands of people made homeless by the quake.

After initially declining offers of help, Turkey will now accept offers of aid from foreign countries to cope with the aftermath.

Officials say that, with more than 2000 buildings destroyed, there is an urgent need for accommodation.

The state governor estimates 600,000 people are affected.

There has been fighting in camps over shipments of aid and blocked aid shipments, and the Turkish Red Crescent says 17 trucks carrying aid have been looted in Van and Ercis.

The disaster began on Sunday when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake occurred at 1.41pm. The epicentre was 16km northeast of the city of Van at a depth of 20km.