By The Associated Press
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A powerful earthquake struck eastern Turkey Sunday, collapsing at least two buildings in the center of eastern city of Van, the mayor said.
“Two buildings collapsed in Van, but the telephone system is jammed due to panic and we can’t assess the entire damage immediately,” Bekir Kaya, the mayor of Van, told NTV television.
The state-run Anatolia news agency said rescue workers were trying to reach people believed to be trapped under the wreckage of a seven-story building in Van, close to the Iranian border.
The earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 struck eastern Turkey at 1:41 p.m. (1041 GMT; 6:41 a.m. EDT), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It said the quake had a depth of 7.2 kilometers (4.5 miles), which is shallow and could potentially cause more damage.
Turkey’s Kandilli observatory gave it a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 but put its depth at 5 kilometers. Several aftershocks as strong as magnitude 5.5 followed, the observatory said
The quake’s epicenter was in the village of Tabanli in eastern Van province, bordering Iran.
The quake was strongly felt in neighboring provinces, NTV television said.
Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is crossed by faultlines.
In 1999, about 18,000 people were killed by two powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Turkey.