ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish rescue workers and soldiers scrambled Friday to set up tents to shelter hundreds of people left homeless after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake damaged buildings in western Turkey, killing at least three people.
No one was reported buried under the rubble in the town of Simav, the epicenter of the quake, but one man died after jumping out of a window in panic while an 18-year-old high school student was killed when he was hit by a falling piece of stone as he stood outside his home, the Anatolia news agency said. An elderly woman died of a heart attack in another town, Inegol, shortly after the quake rocked the region late Thursday.
The earthquake was felt hundreds of kilometers (miles) away and injured about 125 people, including some who suffered injuries after jumping from balconies or windows, authorities said.
The Red Crescent, the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross, set up soup kitchens to feed thousands of people who spent the night in their cars or in the streets of Simav, said Tekin Kucukali, head of the organization.
Turkish soldiers were helping rescue workers to set up a small tent city to provide temporary shelter to the homeless. The Red Crescent dispatched more than 2,000 tents and 10,000 blankets to the area as well as food and drinking water.
At least two cars were buried under the debris of an apartment building and the streets were littered with window glass, television footage showed.
Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu blamed shoddy construction for the partial collapse of some buildings in the area. The quake cracked many buildings, including hostels, sending terrified residents into the streets and triggering an exodus by university students.
Live coverage by NTV television Friday showed students screaming and running away from a building at the city's bus terminal as an aftershock — the latest of hundreds — jolted the area.
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 the group's warnings. Authorities had cut power supply to the town to prevent fires.
Eroglu, meanwhile, insisted that there was no leak from a cyanide pool which reported damage several days before the quake hit the area.
There were no immediate reports of damage in the ancient city of Ephesus, which lies just outside the town of Selcuk, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Simav.
Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which is crossed by fault lines and several Turkish cities are at risk from quakes, most notably Istanbul, a city that sits near a major fault line.
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. Authorities have been struggling to enforce stricter building codes since then.