Rescuers desperately tried on Sunday to find survivors in eastern Turkey among the rubble of collapsed buildings after a powerful earthquake that claimed at least 38 lives.
Nearly 4,000 rescue workers combed through the debris in freezing temperatures, aided by mechanical excavators, as hope vanished as hour 48 approached.
Three bodies were found in the city center, almost 40 hours after the 6.8 magnitude earthquake on Friday night.
Hours later, two more bodies were found that raised the death toll to 38 in Elazig province and nearby Malatya, state broadcaster TRT reported.
Rescuers carefully cleaned the remains of the collapsed four-story building where the bodies were found, using buckets to remove broken material when a tracking dog was taken to the scene.
The workers were looking for two people who were still under the rubble, Hurriyet said daily.
The residents were still waiting to know what had happened to their relatives. A group of women burst into tears upon learning that a relative’s body had been found, while a woman fainted, said an AFP photographer.
But rescuers have so far saved 45 people, authorities say.
The government agency for disaster and emergency management (AFAD) said 1,607 were injured, 13 of them in intensive care.
The story of Syrian university student Mahmoud al Osman, who used only his bare hands to rescue a man and a woman from under the rubble, went viral.
Osman told state news agency Anadolu that he heard voices after the earthquake ended, while Durdane and Zulkuf Aydin said they screamed when they saw Osman’s phone light before he and others helped rescue them.
Turkey is home to 3.6 million Syrians in Turkey and, although there are limited social problems, tensions have increased after an economic recession.
There was a growing concern for residents in the midst of extreme cold, said Hasan Duran, a 58-year-old merchant living in Sursuru.
“If it were summer, people could resist a little more. But with this cold, it’s hard to imagine. We are even freezing at home. May God give you strength. “
– “All efforts made” –
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that “every effort was made to ensure that citizens whose homes collapsed or suffered damage will not suffer in this winter period.”
The environment minister, Murat Kurum, promised a “radical transformation project” for buildings in the region at risk in case of another earthquake.
Since the earthquake on Friday, there have been 714 aftershocks, 20 of them exceeding four in magnitude.
Residents avoided returning to their homes due to fears of aftershocks. Around a thousand people spent the night in two trains converted into emergency accommodation at the Elazig station.
“There is no risk of being trapped in a collapsed building here and it’s warmer than a tent,” said Berivan Arslan, 55, who left his home due to cracks in the building’s facade.
With his daughter and two granddaughters dealing with boredom playing with a doll, he had spent two nights sleeping in a six-seat compartment.
There are two trains on the platform, while a third will arrive Sunday night from Ankara, according to the Turkish National Railway Company (TCDD).
– Rising anger –
But as there were not enough emergency accommodations to meet the needs of 350,000 residents in the city of Elazig, tensions increased.
In a public park in the city center, dozens of tents have been erected, most of them with capacity for Syrians, which has caused hostility.
“So what, this is a refugee camp? I still don’t have a tent, I’m Turkish, ”an old woman told an AFAD official, who promised that more tents would arrive on Monday.
The epicenter of the earthquake occurred in the small town by the lake of Sivrice, in the province of Elazig, but also affected neighboring cities and countries.
With a population of around 4,000 inhabitants, Sivrice is located south of the city of Elazig, on the shores of Lake Hazar, one of the most popular tourist places in the region.
The US Geological Survey UU. He said the magnitude was 6.7, a little smaller than AFAD, and added that it struck near the Eastern Anatolia fault in an area that has not suffered major documented incidents since an earthquake in 1875.
The recent earthquake left many wondering how Istanbul would manage, amid the growing fears of a powerful one, which seismologists say is inevitable.
In 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake shook Izmit in western Turkey, killing more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in the country’s most populous city, Istanbul.