Hopes fade for those trapped as Turkey quake toll rises

Victims are already 35, government reports, with more expected

Photo: AFP Turkish officials and police work at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in Elazig.

Hopes faded Sunday of finding more survivors from a powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey as more bodies were pulled from the rubble and the death toll climbed to 35. Nearly 4,000 rescue workers combed through debris in freezing temperatures, helped by mechanical diggers, in vain hopes of finding anyone alive in the city of Elazig.

Thanks to their efforts, three bodies were found in the city centre, 38 hours after the 6.8-magnitude quake struck Friday evening, bringing the death toll to 35 in Elazig province and nearby Malatya, Vice President Fuat Oktay said.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters that workers were searching for six people still under the rubble of the collapsed four-storey building where the bodies were found.

So far, the authorities say 45 people have been rescued alive but it is believed 14 people are still under the rubble in the region, according to NTV broadcaster. Additionally, 1,607 were the total number of injured, including 104 still in hospital, according to data from the government's disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD).

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday "every effort was made to ensure citizens whose homes have collapsed or been damaged will not suffer in this winter period." He added every type of assistance was "swiftly" provided to the affected region from rescue workers to vehicles.

The epicentre of the quake was in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in Elazig province, and also affected neighbouring cities and countries. The US Geological Survey said the magnitude was 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875.

Because of the powerful tremor, nearly 80 buildings collapsed while 645 were heavily damaged in Elazig and Malatya provinces.

Since Friday's quake, there have been 714 aftershocks with 20 above four in magnitude.

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