- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2011

ERCIS, Turkey — Distraught Turkish families mourned outside a mosque or sought to identify loved ones among rows of bodies Monday as rescue workers scoured debris for survivors after a 7.2-magnitude quake that killed nearly 300 people.

Rescue teams with generator-powered floodlights worked into the night in the worst-hit city of Ercis, where running water and electricity were cut by the quake that rocked eastern Turkey on Sunday.

Unnerved by more than 200 aftershocks, many residents slept outside their homes, making campfires to ward off the cold, as aid organizations rushed to erect tents for the homeless.

Victims were trapped in mounds of concrete, twisted steel and construction debris after more than 100 buildings in two cities and mud-brick homes in nearby villages pancaked or partially collapsed in Sunday’s earthquake.

About 80 multistory buildings collapsed in Ercis, a city of 75,000 close to the Iranian border that is situated in one of Turkey’s most earthquake-prone zones.

Cranes and other heavy equipment lifted slabs of concrete, allowing residents to dig for the missing with shovels.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the quake killed 279 people and injured 1,300, but he expected search-and-rescue efforts to end as early as Tuesday.

Authorities said 10 victims were students learning about the Koran at a religious school that collapsed.

Grieving families cried outside an Ercis mosque.

“My nephew, his wife and their child, all three dead. May God protect us from this kind of grief,” resident Kursat Lap told the Associated Press.

Bodies were still being pulled from the rubble late Monday. Dozens were placed in body bags or covered by blankets laid out in rows so people could search for their missing relatives.

“It’s my grandson’s wife. She was stuck underneath rubble,” said Mehmet Emin Umac.

Several other men carried a child’s body wrapped in a white cloth as weeping family members followed.

Still, there were some joyful moments. Yalcin Akay was dug out from a collapsed six-story building with a leg injury after he called an emergency line on his phone and told the operator where he was, Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported.

Three others, including two children, also were rescued from the same building in Ercis 20 hours after the quake struck.

Two other survivors were trapped for more than 27 hours.

Aid groups scrambled to set up tents, field hospitals and kitchens to help the thousands left homeless or too afraid to re-enter their homes. Many exhausted residents spent a second night outside.

The bustling, larger city of Van, about 55 miles south of Ercis, also reported 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 Obama, conveyed their condolences and offered assistance, but Mr. Erdogan said Turkey is able to cope for now. Azerbaijan, Iran and Bulgaria still sent aid, he said.

Among those offering help were Israel, Greece and Armenia - all despite having issues in their relations with Turkey.

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