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|Earthquake in Turkey!|
|02/04/02 at 18:24:25|
|SULTANDAGI, Turkey — 02/03/02 - An earthquake shook a poppy-growing region in central Turkey on Sunday, toppling scores of buildings and killing at least 45 people, including an elderly couple crushed by falling rubble while having breakfast. |
At least 150 people were injured in the magnitude-6 quake, which was far less powerful than the pair of earthquakes which killed 18,000 people in the northwest in 1999.
The government said no one else was believed trapped in the rubble and that it didn't expect the death toll to climb much beyond 45.
"Because today is Sunday and shops are closed, a huge disaster was avoided," said Public Works Minister Abdulkadir Akcan. The most seriously damaged buildings were shops and state offices, which were closed for Sunday.
The epicenter was Sultandagi, a small town 125 miles south of the capital, Ankara, and affected areas up to 200 miles away. About 150 buildings collapsed in the area, which is fringed by the Sultan mountains and dotted with plains that are carpeted by red poppies in summer. The government-controlled poppy industry produces morphine derivatives for use in painkillers.
"It was very powerful, I could not stand up," said Ramazan Seker, who waited as rescuers hunted for his brother who was believed under rubble. "I was only able to find my way out by touching my hands against the walls."
An elderly couple died after a three-story building collapsed onto their one-story house. Huseyin Seker, 75, and his 73-year-old wife, Kezban, were last seen by neighbors sipping tea in their kitchen when the temblor struck at 9:11 a.m.
Workers pulled out Kezban's body Sunday evening, and dug with excavators and shovels to retrieve the body of her husband. The couple's relatives silently waited for rescue workers to hand over the bodies.
Of the 150 injured, some 26 had jumped from windows and balconies out of fear their buildings would collapse, state television reported. Turks, whose nation lies atop a major fault, live in constant fear of earthquakes.
At one hospital, doctors, expecting aftershocks, rushed patients into the garden.
"Please, please stay away from damaged houses," said Ahmet Mete Isikara, head of Turkey's Istanbul-based Kandilli seismology institute, on national television. Dozens of aftershocks, the strongest with a magnitude 5.3, rattled the area, further scaring residents, many of whom prepared to spend the night outdoors as weather forecasts expect temperatures to drop to below freezing.
"We've lighted a fire, we're going to sleep in the street," said Rukiye Gokyuz, a 60-year-old woman.
The government, accused in the past of reacting too slowly to natural disasters, said it immediately sent 3,000 blankets and 1,000 tents to the region. Troops set up tent cities to house the homeless, private NTV television reported.
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and several other Cabinet ministers inspected the disaster site.
Schools in the area were closed for the week, and authorities in Sultandagi allowed locals to make free phone calls to panicking relatives outside the area.
Until the 1970s, the poppies in this area were widely used to produce opium and heroin. But in 1971, the government halted poppy-growing under pressure from the United States. Poppy cultivation resumed in 1974 under government control. The poppies are being processed for pharmaceutical use in a state factory in Bolvadin, where one person died during the quake. No damage was reported to the factory.
Copyright © 2002 KABC-TV
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