The United Nations has deployed a disaster assessment team to help coordinate emergency rescue and recovery efforts in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake which hit southeastern Turkey early this morning, killing nearly 85 people.
According to a UN spokesman in New York, a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has been dispatched to support the Turkish Government in the coordination of international response to the emergency, and assist in a rapid assessment of priority needs.
Fred Eckhard also said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "deeply saddened by the loss of life, injuries and destruction" caused by the earthquake in Bingol Province, which measured 6.4 on the Richter scale, and wished to convey his deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and to the Turkish Government.
Meanwhile, details are emerging about the breadth of the destruction as emergency workers on the ground race ahead of nightfall to rescue schoolchildren feared trapped beneath the rubble of a collapsed dormitory. Though the underdeveloped town has few high-rise buildings, the four-story state boarding school residence was one of the hardest hit structures, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
There were more that 195 students staying in the dormitory when the quake hit, and although civil defence and rescue workers succeeded in rescuing 69 of the children, it was feared that perhaps 100 remain trapped under the debris. OCHA said the wounded were being treated at Bingol hospital, and those with more serious injuries were being sent to facilities in neighbouring cities.
According to OCHA, perhaps more than 300 people have been injured, and initial reports also said the quake brought down 40 buildings in Bingol alone, with outlying areas also reporting heavy damage.
It is difficult to get clear information because electricity and telephone lines to the remote region have been cut, but OCHA reported that utilities service providers and local authorities are currently conducted a damage an needs assessment of the infrastructure. As for rescue efforts, the Turkish Red Crescent Society has mobilized 500 tents, 3,000 blankets, mobile kitchens and generators, as well as four tons of food supplies in the affected area.