Turkey Earthquake Death Toll Rises

November 14, 2011 by staff 

Turkey Earthquake Death Toll Rises, Rescuers on Saturday recovered the body of a second journalist missing underneath the rubble of an earthquake-shattered hotel as the death toll in the second earthquake to hit eastern Turkey in about two weeks rose to at least 26. Colleagues and friends wept as rescue workers pulled out the body of Sebahattin Yilmaz from beneath the debris of the Bayram Hotel – one of two hotels that fell apart when the 5.7-magnitude quake hit the eastern city of Van late Wednesday. The body of Yilmaz’s colleague, Cem Emir, was pulled out of the rubble five hours earlier. Both were reporters for the Dogan news agency and were covering the aftermath of an earlier, more powerful earthquake.

“In our profession we always come across disasters,” Dogan agency’s general manager, Ugur Cebeci, told The Associated Press earlier as he watched rescuers in red overalls search through the debris of the once five-story hotel. “But we are grappling with helplessness here.”

Emir, 26, worked at Dogan’s office in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast, and had won journalism prizes, the agency said. Yilmaz, 52, was based in Van and was working with Emir at the Bayram Hotel when the temblor occurred.

Relief workers – who had arrived in the city to help survivors of the earlier earthquake that hit the region on Oct. 23 – also became victims when the two hotels collapsed, weakened by the earlier temblor. The fatalities include a Japanese relief worker who had come to distribute aid to quake survivors and eight employees of a company who were in Van to assemble temporary housing units for survivors.

Rescuers pulled out 14 bodies from the wreckage of the Bayram Hotel as well as the low-budget Aslan Hotel on Friday, raising the death toll to 26, according to state-run TRT television.

Authorities called off rescue operations at the Aslan by the late afternoon, but rescuers continued their search for possible survivors at the Bayram, their work made more difficult by heavy snow that began to fall in the evening.

It was not known how many people remained buried in the rubble of the Bayram Hotel.

“We are not able to hear any voices,” said Disaster management official Askit Dayi said on Friday. “But still we are removing layers of concrete in a way as if there are survivors.”

Recep Salci of the rescue group Akut told NTV television that freezing temperatures at night were also posing a threat to any possible survivors.

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