ELAZIG CITY: Rescuers desperately attempted on Sunday to find survivors in eastern Turkey in the rubble of collapsed buildings after a powerful earthquake claimed at least 38 lives.
Nearly 4,000 rescue workers combed through debris in freezing temperatures, helped by mechanical diggers, as hope was fading as the 48th hour approached.
Three bodies were found in the city centre, nearly 40 hours after the 6.8-magnitude quake struck on Friday evening. Hours later, two more bodies were found bringing the death toll to 38 in Elazig province and nearby Malatya, state broadcaster TRT reported.
Rescuers carefully cleared the remains of the collapsed four-storey building where the bodies were found, using buckets to remove broken material as a sniffer dog was brought to the scene.
Workers were searching for two people still under the rubble, Hurriyet daily said.
Residents were still waiting to find out what had happened to their relatives. A group of women burst into tears on learning that the body of a relative had been found, while one woman fainted, a photographer said.
But rescue workers have so far saved 45 people, the authorities say. The government’s disaster and emergency management agency said 1,607 people were inju-red.
The story of Syrian university student Mahmud al Osman, who used only his bare hands to rescue a man and woman from underneath rubble, went viral.
Osman told state news agency Anadolu he heard voices after the quake ended while Durdane and Zulkuf Aydin said they shouted when they saw Osman’s telephone light before he and others helped rescue them.
Turkey is home to 3.6 million Syrians and although there are limited social problems, tensions have increased following an economic downturn.
There was growing concern for residents amid the bitter cold, said Hasan Duran, a 58-year-old shopkeeper, who lives in Sursuru.
“If it was summer, people could maybe resist a little longer. But with this cold, it’s hard to imagine. Even we are freezing at home. May God give them strength.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday “every effort has been made to ensure citizens whose homes have collapsed or been damaged will not suffer in this winter period.”
Environment Minister Murat Kurum vowed a “radical transformation project” for buildings in the region at risk in the event of another quake.
Since Friday’s quake, there have been 714 aftershocks, 20 of them more than four in magnitude.
Residents avoided returning to their homes because of aftershock fears. Around a thousand people were spending the night in two trains converted into emergency accommodation in Elazig station.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020