March 13

This Day in History

Disaster

Mar 13, 1992:

Quake rocks Turkey

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake near Erzincan, Turkey, and an unusually powerful aftershock two days later kill at least 500 people and leave 50,000 people homeless.

Erzincan was a provincial capital city of 90,000 people 600 miles east of Istanbul in Central Turkey. The people of the area were no strangers to earthquakes--deadly quakes had struck the area in 1047, 1547, 1583, 1666, 1784 and 1939. It was a Friday evening during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when the 1992 earthquake struck; most people in Erzincan and the surrounding area were sitting down for their evening meal. Seventeen seconds of powerful jolts and rocking began at 7:19 p.m., bringing down buildings and all electricity in the region.

One casualty of the quake was the minaret on top of the Demirkent Mosque—it toppled and fell, killing 27 people. The Uratu Hotel and the Vakif Business Center, both four stories tall, were completely demolished by the tremors and several tall apartment buildings also collapsed because of the earthquake. Approximately 200 other large buildings were demolished, in addition to hundreds of homes. Survivors made their way outside to the pitch-dark streets searching for enough flashlights so that rescue efforts could begin, but little could be done until the light of the next day.

The Turkish military, which had a large presence in Erzincan, spearheaded the relief effort. Thousands of homeless residents fashioned temporary shelters from plastic covering. Many in the region were just returning to their damaged homes on March 15 when a 6.1-magnitude aftershock centered in Pulumur, 43 miles southeast of Erzincan, struck, exacerbating the damage.

In total, authorities claimed that approximately 500 people died from the two quakes. Many observers and relief workers at the scene, though, estimate that the true count may have been closer to 2,000 people.

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