Earthquake hits western Turkey; three dead

ANKARA, May 20 (AP): A 5.9-magnitude earthquake partly collapsed some buildings and one mosque in western Turkey, killing at least three people and injuring nearly 100 people, authorities said on Friday.
The quake that struck at 11.15 p.m. on Thursday (1.45 a.m. Friday, IST), sent terrified residents running from their homes before midnight. It was centred in the town of Simav, the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory said. Two people, including one who jumped out of a window in panic, were killed in Simav, Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu told reporters. An elderly woman died of a heart attack in another town, Inegol, authorities said.
Mr. Eroglu said 79 people, including some who suffered injuries after jumping from balconies and windows and those who suffered from heart attacks or panic-related shock, were taken to hospitals in Simav. He said only one of the injured was in serious condition. Fifteen others were treated at hospitals in the neighbouring province of Usak, said Seracettin Com, a senior health official.
The Red Crescent said the temblor partly collapsed two empty buildings in Simav, along with a five-story building and a mosque. Authorities evacuated the state hospital in Simav and transferred the injured to other hospitals in the region, the governor’s office said. Bilgin Turkmentepe, a member of the search and rescue group Akut, said some elderly people did not notice the cracks at one mosque at dawn and only left morning prayers after their warnings.
Many residents spent the rest of the night in their cars or in the streets as authorities cautioned them against re-entering their homes. The Red Crescent set up soup kitchens and dispatched tents to the area, said Tekin Kucukali, head of the organisation told NTV television.
Murat Nurlu, head of the emergency earthquake centre at the Prime Minister’s office, said a team has been dispatched to a silver mine in Kutahya where an alleged leak from a cyanide pool was reported several days before the quake hit the area. Mr. Eroglu, however, said measures have already been taken at the site.
The quake was followed by about 50 aftershocks, the strongest with a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 that shook Kutahya, said Mustafa Erdik, head of the Kandilli Observatory. He warned of more aftershocks in the coming days. Most of the town of Simav was without electricity and telephone lines were down, reports said.
Idris Bal, a legislator who was in Kutahya, said he experienced the quake on the fifth floor of an apartment building.  “It was so strong that we could not even move in the first few seconds,” Mr. Bal told NTV television. “People are waiting in their cars now.”
The quake was felt as far as the Aegean city of Izmir, the northwestern city of Bursa, Istanbul and the city of Edirne, close to the Greek and Bulgarian borders. There were no immediate reports of damage in the ancient city of Ephesus, which lies just outside Selcuk, about 90 km south of Izmir. Ephesus was part of Ionian Greece in its early days and now is in predominantly Muslim Turkey.
Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is crossed by fault lines. In March 2010, a 6.0-magnitude quake knocked down houses in five villages in eastern Turkey, killing 51 people. In 2003, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake killed 177 people in the southeastern city of Bingol, including 84 children whose school dormitory collapsed. In 1999, two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.

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