Turkish earthquake: Aftershock 'sparks jail riot'

There was unrest outside the prison in Van as smoke billowed from inside the compound

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An aftershock has been blamed for sparking a riot in a Turkish prison in the eastern city of Van, one of the places worst hit by Sunday's devastating earthquake.

Eyewitnesses said flames and smoke billowed into the night sky and shots were heard.

The death toll from the disaster has risen to 459 people, officials said, as rescue teams continued to search for survivors.

Some 1,352 others were also injured.

Survivors have continued to be rescued, including a two-week-old baby, her mother and grandmother.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government has pledged more aid to the thousands made homeless and aid agencies have set up field hospitals and kitchens and distributed thousands of tents and blankets.

'Police fired tear gas'

The trouble at the Van prison is reported to have begun when a strong aftershock of 5.4 magnitude caused panic among the inmates.

At the scene

The main street in Ercis has been transformed. Some of the buildings lean over at alarming angles, bits of debris dropping from them.

Then there are the mounds of concrete slabs, multifloor apartment blocks crushed down to the height of a single storey.

They are all swarming with orange-suited rescue workers, hammering and drilling, cranes standing by to lift the sawn-off hunks of masonry in the hope that someone may have survived in an air pocket.

Every so often, there is a call for silence. The drills, saws and generators stop, and one of the rescuers shouts into the rubble, listening intensely for any sounds of life.

Prisoners set fire to the jail and fought their guards because authorities refused to let them out, reports say.

Security forces surrounded the jail, from which a number of prisoners were reported to have escaped on Sunday.

Angry relatives gathered outside the prison as they tried to find out what was going on.

Speaking outside the prison, a pro-Kurdish member of parliament - Aysel Tugluk - said people wanted to know what had happened.

"From what we heard, prisoners in the jail asked permission to get some air, naturally, after an aftershock, because they were concerned.

"When they couldn't get permission, they reacted and fire broke out in the jail. That's what we were told. But we heard gunshots with our own ears and learned that police fired tear gas."

The Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the epicentre of the aftershock was Degirmenozu, between Van and Ercis.

Extraordinary rescue

Rescue efforts have been continuing in the area.

In one extraordinary episode, three generations of the same family - a two-week-old baby, her mother and grandmother - were pulled out alive from the rubble in the town of Ercis, which was worst hit in the disaster.

However, hopes are fading for many more who remain unaccounted for, and Turkish officials warn that the death toll is likely to rise.

Survivors and opposition politicians have criticised the government for failing to provide enough supplies.

Turkey is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on major geological fault lines.

Turkey earthquake map

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