ISTANBUL (Anatolia and AFP) — The 10th-century Armenian Church of the Holy Cross (Surb Khatch) on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van has a crack in its dome as a result of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck there last week.
Officials said their initial observations show that there is no other serious damage to the church but they are waiting for the aftershocks to end before evaluating the whole structure of the church.
The Armenian Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross occupies a special place in medieval Armenian art and architecture. In September 2010, 95 years after religious services ended, the church was reopened as a museum and operated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Religious service is allowed only once a year at the church.
Meanwhile, the death toll has reached 600.With temperatures dipping to below freezing the biggest problem now facing survivors in Van province was a lack of tents and heaters, media reports said. Health officials in Ercis, which bore the brunt of the 7.2-magnitude quake, warned survivors against drinking tap water due to fears the supply had been contaminated with sewage, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Many survivors were still camped out in tents or makeshift shelters, fearing further building collapses with rain and snow adding to their misery.
Some whose homes were damaged had tried to find new accommodation only to discover that unscrupulous landlords had hiked rents.