Hopes fade for survivors of eastern Turkey earthquake

RESCUERS today pulled a pregnant woman and her two children alive from the rubble, 35 hours after a devastating earthquake killed at least 366 people in eastern Turkey, reviving fading hopes of finding more survivors.

Derya Coskun, her daughter Elif and son Ozer were plucked from the debris in Ercis, the town worst hit by Sunday’s 7.2 magnitude quake in Van province, media reports said.

Search teams working round the clock also pulled police officer Serkan Uzun and his wife Havva from the wreckage of a public building early today, television footage showed.

Another survivor, 22-year-old Abdullah Pinti, told how he was in a coffee house when the quake struck.

“I immediately hid myself under the table … I curled myself up and pulled my head into my stomach,” he told reporters, while lying on a stretcher with his face covered in black dust.

A medical worker at the local stadium, which has been transformed into a make-shift field hospital, said as he brought in one elderly survivor: “In one hour, it’s the seventh miracle that we have saved, including a one-year-old baby.”

But with each hour that passes the chances of further rescues fades.

“Tomorrow, it will no doubt be the end of hope,” he added.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which struck on Sunday in eastern Van city, collapsed a seven-storey building in one of the central areas in the city.

Rescuers have recovered seven bodies from the building as efforts continued through the night.

“Today we have recovered the bodies of a couple who embraced one another,” said a rescue worker, who declined to be named.

From 15 to 20 more people are expected to be inside the building, said rescuers.

The locals said the number would be even higher if the quake had not hit over the weekend when many were outside for picknicking or other leisure time activities.

“Hopes are so slim now,” said 23-year-old Emrah Erbek who joined dozens of rescue workers.

“We have been working non-stop for 48 hours,” he said, showing his dusty and muddy clothes.

“There is no dead or injured from my family but all those people in this apartment building are my friends,” he said, pointing out the rubble.

Heavy machinery was used to sift through the wreckage as residents and relatives of the trapped gathered around small fires at night in the freezing cold.

The machinery was at the second floor last night and rescue workers said they would reach the ground zero today.

A rescue worker said his team recovered a daughter and a mother crouching behind a couch, who probably squeezed there as a safe space during the quake.

“It has been more than 35 hours and after this it is in the lap of the gods,” said Kadir Pilge, crane driver.

The confirmed death toll from the powerful earthquake in Van province stood at 279, according to government officials. About 1300 people have been injured.

Some 169 people were killed in Ercis district, while 95 died in Van city centre, the Anatolia news agency reported.

A total of 970 buildings collapsed as a result of the quake and aftershocks are still continuing.

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