Rescue workers were searching eight wrecked buildings on Sunday amid dwindling hope for survivors as the death toll from a powerful earthquake which hit western Turkey rose to 69. The 7.0-magnitude quake also injured 940 people, the Turkish emergency authority AFAD said, after it struck on Friday afternoon near the west coast town of Seferihisar in Izmir province.
More than 200 people were in hospital, the authority said. The worst affected Turkish town was Bayrakli, where anxious families in thick blankets spent a second night in tents, preparing for a third. Others watched nervously as rescue workers went through the debris for a second day, including in a residential area where three buildings’ lower floors collapsed, killing an unknown number.
There was desperation and overwhelming fear among families outside one collapsed building, with men and women in tears including a rescue worker whose eyes welled up, caught on video by local media. “How else can we be? We’re in a bad state,” said a worried Ethem, who had been waiting for three days for news of his courthouse colleague’s family including two children and their mother. “We’re waiting for a miracle,” he said in front of a collapsed building three days after the quake.
A teacher whose sister and her two children including a four-year-old were underneath was too upset to speak. “We haven’t heard any news yet. We’re just here. God willing they will be rescued safely,” Seyfi Ozsoy said, after coming from the central province of Afyonkarahisar to provide moral support to the waiting family. “We’re hopeful despite everything,” another family friend, Salih Kose, said.
Nearly 6,000 rescuers have been working day and night since Friday, mechanical diggers helping them remove blocks of concrete. Periodically, the rescue work has been halted and everyone kept silent to listen for signs of survivors trapped in the rubble. Bayrakli mayor Serdar Sandal, of the main opposition party, said over 100 people were rescued from collapsed buildings as he vowed the municipality would work tirelessly to support citizens and meet their needs.