ISTANBUL â€” The death toll in southeastern Turkey climbed to at least 279 Monday, a day after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake devastated the region.
Although the death toll was slowly ratcheting upwards, Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said it was unlikely to reach the 1,000 deaths feared Sunday.
At least 1,300 people were injured in the province of Van, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said.
In the city of Ercis, which was worst hit by the quake, 970 buildings â€” or about a third of the total â€” collapsed, according to the governmentâ€™s emergency committee.
More than 1,200 doctors and rescue workers from across the country were sent to the region. Heavy machinery was being used to help clear rubble and find those buried beneath, according to a German news agency dpa reporter in Ercis. Cries for help could be heard from several buildings, volunteers said.
One 19-year-old man was rescued from a collapsed six-storey building after calling for help on his mobile phone. There were also reports of two women and two children, aged 3 and 5 years, being pulled alive from the rubble.
Two temporary hospitals were set up in tents.
â€œWe wonâ€™t leave any citizen in the cold,â€ Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said early Monday in the provincial capital Van.
However, as darkness fell in Ercis, protests were breaking out among families who said they had yet to be issued tents. Witnesses said there were thousands of people with no shelter.
Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Germany and Iran also sent help, despite Ankaraâ€™s announcement that it would deal with the crisis alone. The government accepted the help because the teams had already set off on Sunday, it said.
There were 10 strong aftershocks in the region lasting until midday Monday, according to the German Research Centre for Geosciences.
The region, which borders Iran, is mainly populated by Turkeyâ€™s Kurdish minority.
Experts from the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said Sunday that more than 1,000 people had likely been killed, given the magnitude of the quake.
But other experts said Monday that the number was probably lower than originally feared.