Death Toll Soars in Turkish Earthquake

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Turkish officials said Wednesday that the official death toll from Tuesday's earthquake has risen to nearly 3,500 with more than 16,000 people injured and thousands more still missing. Citizens and officials dug through rubble - some with their bare hands - trying to reach survivors and family members who were trapped beneath.

US Press Attache in Tel Aviv, Larry Schwartz, told that he knew of no reports of American casualties from the earthquake in Turkey. Attempts to contact the US Embassy in Ankara were unsuccessful.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry Shelton was in Turkey when the deadly earthquake struck and arrived in Israel today for talks with Israeli leaders. Israel television's English news reported that Shelton had experienced the earthquake from his 17th floor hotel room but was not injured.

Also traveling in Turkey when the trembler struck was US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, who also escaped injury.

In the naval base town of Golcuk, on the Marmara Sea, the town's mayor said as many as 10,000 people could still be trapped beneath the debris. Golcuk, a city of about 80,000, straddles a major fault line and was one of the hardest hit areas.

Some residents there, according to the BBC, are angry because the rescue efforts seem to be centered at the naval base, where more than 200 military personnel, including top commanders, are still reported missing.

-more to follow-