VAN, Turkey, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Rescuers in eastern Turkey searched Monday for survivors of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 270 people and collapsed thousands of buildings.
Turkish authorities said they feared the death toll would increase because hundreds of people were trapped under debris.
Officials said the quake injured at least another 1,300 people, Haaretz reported.
Tens of thousands of people who lost homes or feared aftershocks were expected to sleep outdoors in cold weather, Haaretz said.
About 20 aftershocks had been reported, with two measuring magnitudes of 5.6 and 6.
The quake was centered near Van, a city of about 600,000, and nearby Ercis, a city of about 77,000, and was felt in nearby villages and some parts of northern Iraq, the semi-official Anatolian News Agency reported.
"There are many people trapped under the rubble," Van's mayor said. "We are able to hear their screams and their cries for help. We need help urgently."
The mayor of Arjesh, which sustained enormous damage, said his city "needs immediate medical aid."
The Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute in Istanbul estimated the number of dead would be between 500 and 1,000 and aftershocks could strike for weeks.
Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyep Erdogan visited the area not far from the border with Iran, thanking countries that offered assistance, but he said Turkey was prepared to get through the situation on its own.
The walls of a prison in Van collapsed because of the quake and about 200 inmates escaped, Turkey's NTV news channel reported. About 50 of them were later recaptured.
Temperatures were in the mid-50s by mid-morning after dropping to near-freezing as rescuers used flashlights, shovels, cranes and their bare hands to lift debris and climb over buildings turned into rubble to search for victims and survivors. Search dogs were also seeking out survivors, said AFAD, Turkey's Emergency Management Agency.
In anticipation of the pending numbers of homeless, the Turkish Red Crescent sent more than 1,000 tents and 500 food packages to the area. It also called for additional rescue workers, machinery and drinking water.