Hundreds of rescuers worked around the clock in the town of Ercis, which bore the brunt of the quake, and surrounding villages, as scores of ambulances and medical supplies were rushed to the area. The confirmed death toll from the 7.2 magnitude earthquake which struck around lunchtime yesterday in Van province stood at 272, according to Interior Minister Idris Naim Sener. An earlier estimate put the toll at 264.
Some 1,300 people were injured, according to Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc. "We couldn't understand what was going on -- all of a sudden there was dust everywhere, our eyes were full of dust, and we were thrown against the walls and furniture. It lasted 20 seconds," said Ercis resident Yunus Ozmen.
"We spent the night outside in the street and made a fire to keep warm," said the 23-year-old as he recounted the moment when disaster struck, forcing many out of doors to spend the night in freezing temperatures. His neighbour Abdul Hadi Isik said that his aunt and her children were buried under the rubble. "There is no hope left," he added.
A 16-year-old girl Hilal was pulled smiling from the wreckage of her house, and two children were plucked alive from a collapsed building in Ercis, but it was an otherwise grim day for rescuers combing through the rubble.