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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK
Race to save Turkish quake victims
Crews work to rescue students in collapsed Bingol school
Nearly 200 children were in the school when it collapsed

Emergency workers are working into the night to try to rescue dozens of children thought to be trapped under the wreckage of a school dormitory after Thursday's powerful earthquake in south-eastern Turkey.

By Thursday evening more than 90 children had been saved - but another 84 were still unaccounted for.

Across the affected region around 100 people are known to have died when the tremor struck at 0337 local time (0037 GMT) with a magnitude of 6.4 - its epicentre close to the city of Bingol.

Parents rushed to the school primary and middle school in nearby Celtiksuyu, to await news of their children.

Rescuers clambering over the collapsed four-storey building said they could hear cries for help

Rescuer with child in Bingol city

The school, built in the late 1990s, was home to around 200 children from surrounding villages too small to have their own school.

Already accusations have surfaced that shoddy construction standards were to blame for the building being largely flattened by the tremor.

"The stable I built with my own hands didn't collapse but the school did," said the father of a rescued student.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who visited the region - promised an investigation.

"The guilty will be prosecuted," he said.


Thursday's quake lasted 17 seconds, according to the head of Istanbul's Kandilli seismology centre.

3 February 2002 - 43 people killed in Ayfon province in western Turkey
17 August 1999 - 17,000 killed near Izmit and Istanbul in northern Turkey
June 1998 - 144 killed and over 1,000 injured in Adana in south-eastern Turkey

"We woke at exactly half past with everything in the house shaking, from the pictures to the windows in their frames," one resident of the city of Diyarbakir, 115 km south of the epicentre in Bingol, said.

Officials say the timing of the tremor - when people were at home asleep - could contribute to the death toll.

In the city centre of Bingol, where apartment blocks have collapsed, people are desperately trying to dig their way through the rubble using pickaxes and mechanical diggers.

Rescue workers speak of massive devastation with buildings destroyed throughout towns and villages.

Within the rubble from collapsed buildings small spaces can be left
These spaces can be created by supportive objects such as drinks machines or filing cabinets
People can survive in these pockets for days, sometimes weeks

It is difficult to get clear information because electricity and telephone lines to the remote region have been cut.

The BBC's Turkey correspondent, Jonny Dymond, says the country is used to mounting earthquake rescue operations quickly and has equipment that can be flown to the region.

But poor roads in the region will hamper efforts to get to outlying villages and towns.

Offers of help have already been made by other countries, including Greece, Germany and Israel.

Turkey lies on the East Anatolian fault, and tremors are common.

Two earthquakes in August 1999 killed more than 17,000 people in the north-west of the country.

An earthquake in Bingol in 1971 killed about 900 people.

Were you affected by the earthquake? Do you live close to any of the affected areas? Send us your comments.

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The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"The desperate hunt for buried survivors"

In pictures: Turkey earthquake
01 May 03  |  Photo Gallery
Clues to future tremors
06 Mar 03  |  Science/Nature
Deadly history of earthquakes
01 May 03  |  In Depth
Quake survivors describe ordeal
01 May 03  |  Europe

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