Rescuers in Turkey have pulled several more survivors from the rubble in the aftermath of Sunday’s earthquake that officials say killed 279 people and injured more than 1,000 others.
Officials say the magnitude 7.2 quake near Turkey’s border with Iran did the most damage in the town of Ercis, about 90 kilometers north of the city of Van. The death toll from the quake is expected to rise.
Hundreds of rescuers worked through the night with heavy equipment to lift fallen slabs of concrete hoping to find survivors. The government says dozens of large buildings collapsed in the quake.
The earthquake shut down electricity and water in several areas. More than 100 aftershocks have shaken the area since the quake hit, including one with a magnitude of 6.1.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the area Sunday. He said mud-brick homes in nearby villages had all been flattened.
World leaders sent condolences and offers of help to Turkey. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia made a joint phone call to Turkish President Abdullah Gul to express their sympathies.
Countries, including the United States and Israel, have offered their help. U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday the U.S. will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Turkey during this difficult time.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was saddened to learn of the loss of life from Sunday’s quake. He praised Turkish authorities for their rapid response to the disaster and said the U.N. remains ready to offer help, if requested. Turkey has not yet called for international aid to help with the crisis.
Officials say the wreckage includes hotels and a dormitory. Survivors said cries from those trapped in the rubble were heard hours after the quake. The mayor of Ercis issued a call for urgent aid, saying there were many dead.
Television footage shows collapsed buildings and crushed vehicles in Van, and people using shovels and pry bars to claw through wreckage for survivors.
Major geological fault lines cross the region and small earthquakes are a frequent occurrence.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.