Information bulletin: earthquake in eastern Turkey (Van province)

A powerful earthquake (magnitude of 7.2) hit south-eastern Turkey on Sunday, 23 October 2011, at 10:41 GMT, as reported by Turkey's Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute.

Its epicentre was in the village of Tabanli in the Erciş district of the eastern province of Van. The hardest-hit area was Erciş, an eastern city of 75 000 close to the border with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones. The bustling city of Van, about 90 km south of Erciş, also sustained substantial damage.

As of 24 October, 15:00 GMT, the Turkish Republic Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency reported that 279 people had died and 1300 were injured; 2262 buildings have collapsed.

Search and rescue efforts are continuing, with the death toll likely to increase. In the affected region, night-time temperatures are below 0 oC, while daytime temperatures are expected to be 8–15 oC, with rainfall and cold weather forecast.

Health impact

So far, 279 deaths have been reported, mainly from Erciş and Van. Most of the 1300 people reported to be injured are from the cities of Van and Erciş.

The injured are receiving medical care in Van, Erciş and neighbouring provinces.

Health-sector response

As part of the overall coordination provided by the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, the Disaster and Emergency Coordination Centre (SAKOM) of the Turkish Ministry of Health is coordinating the health response. It has deployed 6 helicopter ambulances, 4 airplane ambulances and 201 land ambulances to Van province. From neighbouring provinces, 48 medical rescue teams and 1197 health professionals, including 163 specialist doctors, were mobilized to support the rescue operations.

Air ambulances are transporting medical rescue teams to the earthquake-affected area, and evacuating patients. The Ministry of Health has prepared 1700 hospital beds in Ağrı, Erzurum, Bitlis, Diyarbakır, Muş, Iğdır and Ankara for further medical evacuations. Temporary tent hospitals have been established in Van and Erciş to provide additional services in the affected areas.

The Turkish Red Crescent Society is establishing a tent camp in Erciş stadium and mobilizing supplies.

WHO response

The Turkish authorities are managing the rescue operations and have not requested any specific international support.

Along with WHO headquarters and the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, has offered WHO support to the Ministry of Health, including the rapid deployment of WHO emergency (surgical and trauma) kits, if and when required.

As part of the United Nations country team, the WHO Country Office, Turkey is working with counterparts in the Ministry of Health, and monitoring the situation and potentially evolving health needs. WHO experts are on stand-by.