Istanbul Patriarchate Damaged Following Massive Deadly Earthquake .

ISTANBUL (Lraper–Reuters–Noyan Tapan)–An earthquake–measuring up to 6.7 on the Richter scale–which hit Istanbul early Tuesday morning–causing wide-spread damage and killing 1100 people–also damaged the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul–but the Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan opened the Patriarchate facilities to residents for shelter.

Deep cracks appeared on the walls of the wooden building of the Armenian Patriarchate–built by Patriarch Malachia Ormanian and put to service in 1913. The belfry of the Holy Mother-of-God Patriarchal Church–built by Khrimian Hayrig in 1870 was damaged; two of the five stone-crosses decorating the copula fell down damaging the roof of the ancient church’s nave. Sources from around Istanbul reported damage in nine Armenian churches and in the building complex of the Holy Savior’s Armenian Hospital in Yedikule. Other damages were also reported.

President Robert Kocharian addressed a telegram of condolences to President Suleyman Demirel of Turkey in connection with Tuesday’s earthquake that claimed hundreds of human lives–a government source said.

Armenia is ready to send rescue groups to Turkey if the latter makes such a request–the source added.

Engineers have termed the deep cracks on the third floor of the Armenian Patriarchate as serious. The historic belfry of the Patriarchal Church of the Holy Mother-of-God has been damaged. The roof of the Bezciyan parish school in Kumkap is almost destroyed and must be renovated before students return to school next month.

TheArmenian Church of St. George in Samatya has deep cracks in the faade of the church; Sahakyan parish school’s roof needs immediate renovation. The altar of the St. James Church in Altimermer also has been damaged.

The St. James Church in Gedikpasa has received dangerous cracks on the arches and the faade of the building. The two marble columns holding the St. Nicholas in Topkapi have collapsed. The St. Mary Church in Bakirkoy and the Christ the Lord Church in Kadikoy have also been harmed and need renovation.

The Armenian hospital was treating patients–especially those who were brought in from the district of Zeytinburnu where numerous homes were destroyed. Some of the medical specialists have been asked by the Government to serve in the state hospitals.

The Chancellery of the Patriarchate continued to receive information from the 38 church districts in Istanbul.

Patriarch Mesrob II of Istanbul and the members of the Brotherhood of the Patriarchal See prayed for the repose of the souls of the earthquake victims during vespers in the Holy Spirit Patriarchal Chapel this afternoon.

The Patriarch was expected to publish a press release Wednesday–asking church members to help the victims of the quake financially. The Patriarch will also ask his community to help the church councils to renovate the church and school buildings before the second half of the fall season.

he earthquake devastated northwest Turkey on Tuesday killing more than 1,100 people and injuring thousands as apartment blocks and houses collapsed and crushed them as they slept.

Frantic survivors tore at mangled steel and concrete to free loved ones–and officials asked the international community to send sniffer dogs and lifting equipment to help in the rescue.

Thousands more people were left homeless as their houses and apartmen’s vanished in clouds of dust and rubble while buildings left standing were weakened and made unsafe.

In Istanbul–residents rushed into blacked-out streets to escape falling concrete after the quake–measured by Turkish seismologists at 6.7 on the Richter scale.

In Golcuk –Turkish rescue teams dug at the ruins of a naval base building searching for some 200 sailors buried when the building was flattened by the quake.

The force of the quake ripped out electric pylons and tore power cables apart–leaving the region without electricity. It also toppled the minarets of dozens of mosques.

The air force and Red Crescent flew thousands of tents to the area and crisis center manager Ahmet Sagar told Reuters that Turkey had enough food and tents for the survivors.

Authorities criticised builders for failing to protect homes against tremors last year after more than 140 people died in southern Turkey in a quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit called the quake the worst natural disaster he had ever seen and said it would require gargantuan efforts to rebuild.

The United States offered military help and sent a search and rescue team on Tuesday.

"On behalf of all Americans–our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," said President Bill Clinton. "Turkey has been our friend and our ally for a long time now. We must stand with them and do whatever we can to help them get through this terrible crisis."

Traditional rival Greece offered aid and condolences–and planned to send a plane with medical supplies on Tuesday.

US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson was in Istanbul on an official visit during the quake. "Everyone was shook up," Richardson said. "Literally–the walls and floors were moving–and you’re not moving."

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