Israel Sends Special Rescue Teams to Aid Earthquake Victims in Turkey

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

Jerusalem ( - More than 600 hundred people are reportedly dead and thousands of others injured after a powerful earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale rocked Turkey early Tuesday morning and the death toll is expected to rise dramatically.

The Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv told, that the quake's epicenter was in Izmit, located on the Marmara Sea, about 65 miles east of Istanbul. Ozlen Demir from the Embassy said Izmit and two districts of Istanbul, home to more than 15 million people, were hardest hit. Izmit and houses the stock exchange is an industrial city with large oil refineries, which caught fire because of the quake.

According to reports from Turkey, some residents were trapped and killed as entire buildings collapsed on them while they were sleeping while others fled from buildings by jumping from windows.

Israeli President Ezer Weizman telephoned Turkish President Suliman Demirel to convey condolences. Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Levy offered assistance early this morning after being informed of the magnitude of the quake. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Effi Matityahu, told that Israel is sending special rescue and medical teams to Turkey.

Matityahu said, the search and rescue team includes specially trained army personnel and sniffer dogs to aid in locating any survivors trapped beneath rubble. Another team of medical personnel will treat survivors. Heavy equipment needed for search and rescue as well as medicines and supplies to aid victims will also be flown to Turkey.

Similar teams were sent from Israel to aid in the search and rescue of victims of the bombing of the US Embassy in Kenya.

Avi Shapira, Acting Director Genreal of the Geo-Physical Institute of Israel told that although earthquakes cannot be predicted, it was "not a surprise" that Turkey was hit by such a quake. Shapira said that small earthquakes, which can only be measured by equipment, occur daily in Turkey, but one of this magnitude happens only once every ten or twenty years.

Although they cannot forecast when an earthquake will happen Shapira said, "we do know where an earthquake will occur and (approximately) what magnitude" it will be.