9 Dead in Turkey After Quake Hits Rural Iran Border Region

February 23, 2020 Updated: February 23, 2020
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ISTANBUL—Nine people died and hundreds of buildings collapsed in southeastern Turkey on Feb. 23 after a magnitude-5.7 earthquake struck near the border with Iran, injuring dozens in villages and towns in both countries, government officials said.

The quake was centered west of the Iranian city of Khoy and affected villages in the Turkish province of Van.

Three of those killed were children and 37 Turks were injured, including nine critically, Turkey’s health ministry said.

The shallow temblor caused more than 1,000 buildings to collapse in Turkey, prompting a brief rescue effort to find those trapped under rubble.

The quake damaged buildings some 90 km (56 miles) to the west in the Turkish city of Van, and to the east in dozens of villages in Iran, where state TV said 75 people were injured, including six who have been hospitalized, although there were no fatalities.

Crisscrossed by major fault lines, Iran and Turkey are among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.

Turkish TV footage showed people digging with shovels and their hands in the rubble, as well as furniture and belongings strewn on cracked and snowy roads.

In one village, the ground cratered under several buildings, while in others, residents were wrapped in blankets outside homes with crumbled and cracked exterior walls, fallen metal roofs and twisted wiring.

“The damage caused loss of life,” the governor of Van, Mehmet Bilmez, told reporters standing in front of a pile of cinder blocks and sheet metal. “There is destruction in all four villages” he visited on Feb. 23, he added.

Turkey Earthquake
Houses are reduced to rubble after an earthquake hit villages in Baskale in Van province, Turkey, at the border with Iran, on Feb. 23, 2020. (IHA via AP)

The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said the quake, which hit at 8:53 a.m. local time, had a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles).

Broadcasters and government officials said dozens of villages were rattled in Turkey, which like Iran has a history of powerful earthquakes. Nearly 150 tents were sent to shelter families in the region, where several schools in the districts of Baskale, Saray, and Gurpinar sustained minor damage.

Twenty-five ambulances, a medical helicopter, and 13 emergency teams had been sent to the region, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) has begun rescue work in villages including in Ozpinar, about 25 km (16 miles) south of the epicenter, said Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. AFAD measured the tremor at a 5.9 magnitude.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the epicenter 47 km (29 miles) west of the Iranian city of Khoy, where people felt the tremor, according to state TV.

An earthquake last month in eastern Turkey killed more than 40 people while another in Iran caused structural damage to homes, without any fatalities.

An Iranian official told state TV that rescue teams had been dispatched to the area in Iran’s West Azarbaijan province.

Another local official said the earthquake was felt in several towns including Urmiah and Salmas, and many villages including some that suffered “100 percent damage,” state TV reported.

By Irem Koca and Jonathan Spicer