With eerie timing, a powerful earthquake (from 6.6 to 7.2 on the Richter scale, depending on who is reporting) has hit eastern Turkey, near the city of Van.
The institute said the earthquake struck at 10:41 am GMT and was 5 kilometers (three miles) deep.
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.
A Reuters reporter in Hakkari, a town around 100 km (60 miles) south of the city of Van in southeastern Turkey, said he could feel the building sway for around 10 seconds.
There was no immediate sign of any casualties or damage in Hakkari, around two and half hours drive through the mountains from Van, around 20 km (12 miles) from the epicenter.
There are some graphic videos on Hebrew Ynet.
The Jerusalem Post (and Israel Radio news which I just heard) also report a possible toll of 500-1000 deaths.
State-run media reported between 500-1,000 people had been killed, while the prime minister’s office said the earthquake had caused a loss of life and damage.
The Kandilli Observatory said the earthquake struck at 1041 GMT and was 5 km (3 miles) deep. The US Geological Survey earlier reported that the magnitude was 7.6.
Television pictures showed damaged buildings and vehicles, crushed under falling masonry, and panicked residents wandering in the streets.
Turkish media said phone lines and electricity had been cut off. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was heading to Van to see the damage, media reported.
Aftershocks continued after the initial quake, whose epicentre was at the village of Tabanli, north of Van city, the agency said.
I am pleased that Israel’s leaders are mature enough to ignore the hostile relations between the two countries and to offer aid and rescue services to Turkey:
Following initial reports of the earthquake, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel will Turkey offer “any assistance required” to deal with the aftermath of the natural disaster.
Barak ordered the Defense Ministry’s head of the political-diplomatic bureau to transmit Israel’s offer of help to Turkey.
I hope that Turkey’s leaders are level-headed enough to accept Israeli aid if it is needed. This would be in keeping with the help proffered to Israel by Turkey last winter during the devastating Carmel Forest fire.
If only the two countries could be able to cooperate in “normal” times too and not just during times of crisis and catastrophe, the region would be a better place.