ISTANBUL, Turkey, Aug. 17 -- As many as 1,000 people have been killed and thousands of others injured in a predawn earthquake that shook much of western Turkey. Turkish television says today that the death toll is expected to climb as search teams work their way through the many collapsed buildings. Authorities have told people not to return to their houses and instead spend the night outside because of the threat of additional collapses during aftershocks. The quake hit at 3:02 a.m. today, causing buildings in Izmit and Adapazari to collapse and many in Istanbul, some 65 miles away, to sway. The epicenter of the quake was set near Izmit, which appears to have been the most seriously damaged, with hundreds of deaths reported in the city. Many old buildings in Istanbul and Izmit have suffered structural damage and may not withstand a new jolt. Hospitals across the affected region were reported to be overwhelmed by the number of injured. Turkish television showed some victims being treated in front of the hospitals. Turkey's independent NTV television network says hospitals in Izmit have begun turning away casualties with non-life-threatening injuries, giving priority to emergency cases. The station also says dozens of people smashed pharmacy windows after the quake hit, searching for bandages. Local hospitals are reporting a serious plasma shortage and appeals for supplies have gone out. Thousands of people are still trapped under the wreckage of buildings, many of them built with shoddy materials and not designed to withstand a quake of such magnitude.
At least 100 aftershocks have been registered in western Turkey. U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, currently in Turkey for talks on the Caspian oil and gas pipeline, said the United States stands ready to offer assistance. Richardson, speaking to NBC's 'Today' program from Istanbul, said he was asleep in his room on the 12th floor of a hotel when the quake struck. Richardson said: 'I was asleep, but we immediately woke up. First of all, the ground under you starts shaking and then the walls appear to be coming toward you and there's massive noise and you're kind of helpless because you are totally captive to a room that appeared to be shaking. You're like dancing with a suspended feeling and you have nothing to do. So, it was quite terrifying.' The U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., said the quake hit 7.1 on the Richter scale -- considered a major earthquake. One report said there have been more than 200 aftershocks since the main quake. U.S. President Bill Clinton said Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was also in Istanbul as part of the pipeline talks, has met with his Turkish counterpart. The United States will send rescue workers, Clinton said, noting the United States and Turkey have been allies for decades. 'We must stand with them and do whatever we can to help them get through this terrible crisis,' he said in Washington. Hasan Gemici, the Turkish state minister, told the BBC that the death toll was already more than 100 just after day break. The toll continued to climb through the morning as workers searched piles of rubble for victims. The BBC reported that 20 Turkish sailors were killed and more than 248 trapped under rubble at a naval base on the Marmara Sea. Fire crews also battled a blaze at a Izmit oil refinery for several hours before containing the fire. Turkish television has been airing footage of collapsed buildings in Istanbul and injured people being dug out of debris and carried away by rescue crews. Turkish media reports many gas lines have broken in the quake, starting fires in apartments and homes throughout western Turkey. The huge earthquake was felt in the Turkish capital, Ankara, as well as in Istanbul. Telephones and electricity are out of service across Turkey. Alexander Lebedev, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, said the quake severely damaged the Russian consulate in Istanbul, but there were no casualties among consular staff. Lebedev said Russia is sending an Ilyushin-76 cargo jet with an experienced team of rescue workers and medical supplies to Turkey. The ambassador says the consulate was housed in an 18th century palace built on the orders of Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Israel also has announced it is sending aid, including a team of 180 rescuers who have experience from similar disasters in Mexico, Argentina and Kenya. They will be supported by dogs trained to sniff through rubble for survivors. ---
Copyright 1999 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---