VAN, Turkey (Reuters/AFP) - As many as 1,000 people were feared killed Sunday when a powerful earthquake struck Turkey, collapsing dozens of buildings and pulling down phone and power lines in the southeast of the country, officials and witnesses said. Emergency workers battled to rescue people trapped in buildings in the city of Van, a large eastern city populated mainly by Kurds, and surrounding districts on the banks of Lake Van, near Turkeys border with Iran. We heard cries and groaning from underneath the debris, we are waiting for the rescue teams to arrive, Halil Celik, a young man who lived in the center of the city, told Reuters as he stood beside the ruins of building that had collapsed before his eyes. All of a sudden, a quake tore down the building in front of me. All the bystanders, we all ran to the building and rescued two injured people from the ruins. Turkeys Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck at 1041 GMT and was five kilometres deep. Around 10 buildings collapsed in Van city and about 25-30 buildings were brought to the ground in the nearby district of Ercis, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told reporters. We estimate around 1,000 buildings are damaged and our estimate is for hundreds of lives lost. It could be 500 or 1,000, Kandilli Observatory general manager Mustafa Erdik told a news conference. Cihan news agency reported that there were more than 50 dead bodies at a hospital in Ercis, a town near Van, near the quakes epicentre. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was traveling to Van and the cabinet was expected to discuss the quake at a meeting called for Monday morning. A lot of buildings collapsed, many people were killed, but we dont know the number. We are waiting for emergency help, its very urgent, Zulfukar Arapoglu, the mayor of Ercis, told news broadcaster NTV. Cihan news agency said that of the dead, 30 had been killed in Ercis district where some 80 buildings had collapsed. We need tents urgently and rescue teams. We dont have any ambulances, and we only have one hospital. We have many killed and injured, Arapoglu said. Turkeys Red Crescent said one of its local teams was helping to rescue people from a student residence in Ercis. It said it was sending tents, blankets and food to the region. More than 20 aftershocks shook the area, further unsettling residents who ran out on the streets when the initial strong quake struck. Television pictures showed rooms shaking and furniture falling to the ground as people ran from one building. Dozens of emergency workers and residents crawled over a multi-storey building in Van as they searched for any people trapped in side. Elsewhere, vehicles were crushed in the street by falling masonry while dazed-looking people wandered past. Some 50 injured people were taken to hospital in Van, state-run Anatolian news agency reported, but it did not give details on how serious their injuries were. Turkish media said phone lines and electricity had been cut off. The quakes epicentre was at the village of Tabanli, 20 km north of Van city, Kandilli said. In Hakkari, about 100 km south of Van, a Reuters correspondent said the building he was in swayed for about 10 seconds during the quake. But there was no immediate sign of casualties or damage in the town, which is about two and a half hours drive through the mountains from Van. Television footage showed panicked residents using shovels and other digging tools trying to rescue people trapped under a collapsed eight-storey building in the city centre as nightfall approached. Most people are expected to spend the night outdoors, with the temperature expected to dip to three degrees Celsius (37 Fahrenheit). People are panicked. The telecommunication services have collapsed. We cannot reach anybody, Van Mayor Bekir Kaya told the NTV television in an initial assessment. The government is due to send satellite phones to the region, according to media reports. The army will also send search and rescue teams to the area. Six helicopters, including four ambulance helicopters, as well as C-130 military cargo planes were sent to the area carrying tents, food and medicine. The quake damaged Vans airport, the Anatolia news agency reported, adding however that it did not disrupt the air traffic, quoting civilian aviation authorities. Van, a city of 380,000 mainly Kurdish inhabitants, is more than 1,200 km from the capital Ankara. The quake was also felt across the border in northwestern Iran, causing some panic in major cities, Iranian media reported, but without any mention of casualties or damage. The tremors were strong enough to cause scenes of panic among the population of the cities, according to several Iranian media. Earthquake-prone Turkey lies atop several fault lines. In 1999, two strong quakes in the heavily populated and industrialised regions of northwest Turkey left some 20,000 dead. And a powerful earthquake in the town of Caldiran in Van province killed 3,840 people in 1976.