The Israeli Consul General has said that no Israeli nationals were in the area where another earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale rattled eastern Turkey Sunday afternoon. Israeli tourism to Turkey has al but endd, due to PM Erdogan's anti-Israel behavior.
The quake hit hours after a 7.6 strength temblor struck the region at 6:41 a.m. local time, reaching a depth of 4.5 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and came along with several other, weaker aftershocks.
The epicenter of was located in the village of Tabanli in eastern Van province, populated by nearly one million. The region borders Iran, and is known to be home to the PKK terrorist group, which has many of its operational bases located in the area.
Initial estimates placed the death toll between 500 to 1,000 people after at least 45 buildings had collapsed in the devastated town of Ercis, near Van.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that Israel would offer any assistance it can in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Israel's Geophysical Institute reported that the massive temblor could be felt in some residential high rises as far south as central Tel Aviv.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz ordered preparations to aid Turkey. An IDF delegation is completing preparations to head to the disaster area, as soon as it receives final approval from the government, a spokesman said.
"There are so many dead," Ercis Mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu told NTV television. "There is too much destruction. We need urgent aid, we need medics."
In nearby Van, located near the Iranian border, the airport has been damaged and planes are being diverted to neighboring cities. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reportedly on his way to the city to inspect the damage.
At least two buildings collapsed during the first earthquake, according to Mayor Bekir Kaya. Rescue workers were trying desperately to pull out people believed to be trapped under the wreckage of a seven-story building. Some 50 injured people were evacuated to a hospital.
Despite the dramatic worsening of relations between Israel and Turkey over the past several years, Turkey assisted Israel late last year when a massive wildfire tore through the Mount Carmel forest.
Likewise, a number of quiet back-channel talks have taken place via various Israeli interfaith delegations held with Istanbul-based Turkish Islamic philosopher Adnan Oktar, who has ties with Ankara and who has worked to maintain ties with the Jewish State.
“May Allah have mercy on our brothers who have been martyred recently in the earthquake, and may He give forbearance to the relatives of their families and recovery to our wounded citizens," Oktar told Arutz Sheva in a telephone interview following the second earthquake Sunday afternoon. "Our Prophet (pbuh) forewarns in many of the hadiths that in the time of the appearance of Hazrat Mahdi –King Mashiach- before the Last Day earthquakes will increase and become frequent. We witness with great marvel how earthquakes have increased. There is wisdom in all these happenings. Every one of these is a test. Allah reminds people of the Hereafter by means of these tests and calls that they get closer to Him with more passion.”
Turkish government officials have also expressed concern about the impact of the multiple earthquakes on a nuclear plant located near the Armenian border.