Turkish teams hunt for quake survivors as death toll hits 38

Working against the clock in freezing temperatures, Turkish rescue teams pulled more survivors from collapsed buildings Sunday, days after a powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit the country's east. Rescued survivors wept with gratitude for their efforts. Turkish authorities said the rose to at least 38 people from the magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck Friday night.

Hopes faded Sunday of finding more survivors from a powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey as more bodies were pulled from the rubble and the climbed to 38.

Nearly 4,000 rescue workers combed through debris in freezing temperatures, helped by mechanical diggers, in vain hopes of finding anyone further alive in the city of Elazığ.

So far, more than 1,600 people have been reported injured as rescue workers continue recovering victims buried under the rubble, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

A total of 45 people have been rescued including a woman, 17 hours after her house collapsed.

Turkish television showed Ayşe Yıldız, 35, and her 2-year-old daughter Yusra being dragged out of the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in the city of Elazığ. They had been trapped for 28 hours after the earthquake struck on Friday night.

AFAD said rescue work continues with more than 3,433 personnel with hundreds of vehicles and 17 sniffer dogs in the region.

The magnitude 6.8 quake also injured over 1,600 people but 45 survivors have been pulled alive from the rubble so far, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a news conference Sunday in Istanbul.

As overnight temperatures dropped to -5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit), emergency teams set up more than 9,500 tents for displaced residents and distributed 17,000 hot meals.

Rescue teams concentrated their efforts in the city's Mustafa Paşa neighborhood and the nearby town of Sivrice, the closest residential area to the quake's epicenter.

A team of surveyors is assessing the damage caused by the earthquake, with initial reports suggesting 76 buildings were demolished while 42 damaged and 425 with minor damages.

The 6.8-magnitude quake shook Turkey's Elazığ province late Friday. Tremors were also felt in neighboring countries including Syria and Georgia.

More than 530 aftershocks were felt in the region with nine above a 4.0-magnitude.

Earlier Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the disaster zone on Saturday to inspect the rescue operation, meet with injured people in the hospital and attend the funeral of a mother and son.

"We have borne many earthquakes but the nation has risen above them patiently," said Erdoğan, asking citizens to exercise strength in their weakest hour.

Erdoğan said every effort was being made to alleviate conditions and promised to house displaced residents as soon as possible.

"Turkey has begun to heal the wounds of this great disaster in unity, togetherness and coming together," he said.

Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which sits atop two major fault lines.

Across Turkey, there was an outpouring of support for victims of the quake. Some soccer clubs announced they would donate the receipts of their weekend matches while fans of the Fenerbahçe soccer club threw scarves and hats on to the pitch during a game in Istanbul, chanting "Cold Elazığ, Fenerbahçe is with you!"

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Saturday that 128 people were receiving hospital treatment after the quake, 34 of them in intensive care but not in critical condition.

Victims of the quake were taking refugee in tents, mosques, schools, sports halls and student dormitories. Authorities warned people not to return to homes that could be unsafe.

A prison in Adıyaman, 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of the epicenter, was evacuated due to damage, with more than 800 prisoners transferred to nearby jails.

Condolences poured in from world over, including from the U.S., Russia, Germany, France, Malaysia and Pakistan.

Friday's main quake hit at 8:55 p.m in the city that lies 565 kilometers (350 miles) east of Ankara. It's not the first time Elazığ has seen a fatal quake — a magnitude 6.0 earthquake killed 51 people there in 2010.

Turkey's worst quake in decades came in 1999, when a pair of strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey, killing around 18,000 people.


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