Turks weep as survivors, bodies pulled from quake rubble

279 dead in 7.2-magnitude temblor

People walk by the debris of collapsed buildings in Ercis, Turkey, on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011, after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake the day before. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)People walk by the debris of collapsed buildings in Ercis, Turkey, on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011, after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake the day before. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
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“We stayed outdoors all night, I could not sleep at all, my children, especially the little one, was terrified,” said Serpil Bilici of her six-year-old daughter, Rabia. “I grabbed her and rushed out when the quake hit, we were all screaming.”

The bustling, larger city of Van, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Ercis, also sustained substantial damage. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who inspected the area, said “close to all” the mud-brick homes in surrounding villages had collapsed in the temblor that also rattled parts of Iran and Armenia.

Leaders around the world, including President Barack Obama, conveyed their condolences and offered assistance, but Erdogan said Turkey was able to cope for now. Azerbaijan, Iran and Bulgaria still sent aid, he said.

Among those offering help were Israel, Greece and Armenia, who all have had issues in their relations with Turkey.

The offer from Israel came despite a rift in relations following a 2010 Israeli navy raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turks dead. Greece, which has a deep dispute with Turkey over the divided island of Cyprus, also offered to send a special earthquake rescue team.

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties due to tensions over the Ottoman-era mass killings of Armenians and the conflict in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active seismic zones and is crossed by numerous fault lines. In 1999, two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.

Istanbul, the country’s largest city with more than 12 million people, lies in northwestern Turkey near a major fault line, and experts say tens of thousands could be killed if a major quake struck there.

Fraser reported from Ankara.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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