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Severe Earthquake Hits Turkey - 2003-05-01

A powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey... 6.4 on the Richter scale. Officials say at least 100 people were killed and 1,000 injured Thursday. Many of the victims were young boys trapped in a school dormitory –the search is on to find others buried there. David Cohler reports.

It was 3:30 in the morning when the earthquake struck. Residents huddled in the streets, unsure of the extent of the damage or if more shocks were to follow.

Only at dawn did the extent of the devastation become clear. Everywhere the people of the Bingöl [Bin'-Ghel] looked, they saw rubble, and frantic efforts to dig out trapped neighbors. Reporter Amberin Zaman visited the chaotic site of a boarding school for boys aged 14 and under.

"It is completely destroyed, collapsed. Scores of rescue workers trying to pull out survivors. We do not know how many there may be. There were a total of 190 boarders, schoolboys, who were sleeping in this dormitory when the earthquake struck at 3:27 in the morning, local time. There are hundreds of people here, hundreds of people awaiting the news of loved ones. We see hundreds of Turkish soldiers here. They have formed a human chain to keep those relatives away from the rubble, away from the building because it's very risky and we still are experiencing aftershocks here. And I met many villagers who sent their boys to this boarding school who said there was quite a bit of devastation in the villages too."

Surviving boys were rushed to hospital tents, where they were visited by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (reh-JEHP tie-YIHP ERR-dough-ahn), who flew in from Ankara. He promised the area will receive all the help it needs.

Earthquakes are common in Turkey, two major ones hit in 1999. But this is the first in eastern Bingol Province since 1971. That one killed 900 people.