Izmir, Turkey – Search and rescue efforts continue in the western Turkish city of Izmir, where a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed at least 64 people and injured more than 900 when it hit early Friday morning.
Rescuers race against the clock to reach survivors trapped under the rubble in eight different buildings. Dozens of people are still missing, according to local agencies, and families gathered around the damaged buildings on Sunday, hoping to be reunited with their loved ones.
Yesim Emir, a 29-year-old dentist, was reportedly trapped under an 8-story building when he collapsed. Fighting back tears, her mother Sibel Suruc said her family were waiting to see if she survived.
“I pray she comes out alive,” she told CBS News.
So far 104 people have been lifted out of the rubble alive, Turkey’s Minister of Environment and Urbanization said.
The country’s Disaster Relief and Relief Agency said more than 5,700 staff from state agencies, local governments and civil society groups have been mobilized for rescue operations. Hundreds of them have also been called upon to distribute food, provide psychosocial assistance and limit damage to buildings.
Local TV stations showed intrepid rescue workers sliding through cracks in crushed buildings to reach survivors.
Burak Galip Akkurt is one of them. He said survivors of past disasters were found alive even after five days of being buried under the debris.
“You never lose hope. It’s for the team, but also for those who are waiting outside,” he said.
There were lucky breakouts when the earthquake hit as well. Zeki Soysal looked at the building where he had a partially planted store in front of his eyes. He said he didn’t care that he lost his business and was “just grateful to be alive”.
Over 2,000 people will spend another night in tents. Many fear returning home as aftershocks continue, with more than 900 registered in the past two days. Schools in the city will also be closed next week.
Forty-one buildings were listed as heavily damaged. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to “heal the wounds” before the onset of winter.
The epicenter of the earthquake was located in the Aegean Sea, about 10 miles off the coast of Turkey. The most serious damage occurred in Izmir, but two teenagers from the Greek island of Samos were also killed.
A small tsunami flooded the streets of the Turkish coast town of Seferihisar, killing a woman in a wheelchair, local media reported.
Turkey is located on active fault lines and has experienced major earthquakes in the past. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake killed more than 17,000 people in 1999.
The most recent earthquake came as Turkey grapples with a growing number of.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said he understood the difficulty of practicing social distancing in overcrowded tents or other temporary relief centers, but warned of the threat of the coronavirus nonetheless.
“We urge all of our citizens to continue taking precautions against the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “We cannot give in to the pandemic while we face the consequences of the earthquake. “