New earthquake kills at least 7, traps dozens in Turkey

ANKARA — A strong earthquake rocked eastern Turkey, killing at least seven people in a grim replay of the temblor that devastated the area last month. Rescue workers had managed to pull out 25 survivors from the rubble of three collapsed buildings, including a top hotel where journalists and foreign aid workers were staying, authorities said Thursday.

The 5.7-magnitude quake Wednesday toppled 25 buildings in the city of Van, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said. The death toll could have been even worse: Only three of the buildings were occupied because the others were evacuated after the 23 October quake that killed more than 600 people and destroyed at least 2,000 buildings.

Rescue workers sped up their search for survivors by daylight on Thursday, pulling a man in his 60s out of the wreckage of a pancaked hotel, live NTV television broadcast showed. Soon after, rescuers dug a young man from the rubble of an apartment building, the state-run Anatolia news agency said. The young man became the 25th person rescued alive so far.

The workers used the glare of high-powered lights to work throughout the night despite several aftershocks. Atalay said rescue work was concentrated at the site of two collapsed hotels and one apartment building.

One of the collapsed buildings was the Bayram Hotel, Van’s best-known hotel. It was at least 40 years old, and had been renovated last year.

Some of the guests were journalists who were covering the aftermath of the previous temblor, which left thousands homeless and led a number of countries to send tents, blankets and other supplies to assist Turkey in the aid effort.

Turkey’s Dogan news agency said two of its reporters were missing.

Some foreign rescue workers who scrambled to help the survivors of the previous quake were also staying at the same hotel.

Japan’s Association for Aid and Relief said one of its staff members, Miyuki Konnai, who rushed to Turkey to help the victims of the previous quake, was pulled out alive from the rubble of the Bayram Hotel but another staffer, Atsushi Miyazaki, was missing.

“We spoke with her briefly, she is in a hospital at the moment,” Ikuko Natori told The Associated Press by telephone from Tokyo, Japan, in reference to the 32-year-old Konnai. “She had a slight injury but it is not life threatening.”

Natori, however, said they were not able to reach Miyazaki yet.

“We tried calling him on his mobile, it rings but he is not answering,” said Natori.

Ozgur Gunes, a cameraman for Turkey’s Cihan news agency, told Haber Turk television that some trapped journalists had sent text messages to colleagues asking to be rescued.

He had left the hotel before the quake, but rushed back to collect his camera after it struck, only to find that the building toppled.

“There was dust everywhere and the hotel was flattened,” he said. He told Sky Turk television that the building had some small cracks before the quake, but that he and other guests were told that there was no structural damage.

The exact number of people at the Bayram Hotel was not known. CNN-Turk television said a number of people were also said to be waiting at an office of an inter-city bus firm under the hotel when the quake hit.

Hotel owner Aslan Bayram told NTV television that the hotel had 27 guests, about half of whom were inside when the quake hit. But he said he did not know how many customers may have been in a shop selling desserts at the entrance of the building.

Mustafa Bilici, a ruling party lawmaker, said one person died after throwing himself out of a building in panic.

Atalay said among the toppled buildings were a school and a number of mud brick homes.

The government dispatched hundreds of rescue teams from across the country aboard military and civilian planes, NTV television said. Schools in the region are closed until 5 December. Authorities said schools and hospitals will be closely inspected for damage.

The Turkish Red Crescent immediately dispatched 15,000 tents as well as some 300 rescue workers, the state-run TRT television said. There was no damage in the town of Edremit, the quake’s epicenter.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 5.7 and that its epicenter was 16 km south of Van. It struck at 9:23 pm (1923 GMT).

About 1400 aftershocks have rocked the region since the massive earthquake on 23 October, which killed more than 600 and left thousands homeless. Many residents had been living in tents, despite the cold, too afraid to return to their homes. At least 2000 buildings were destroyed in the stronger temblor and authorities declared another 3700 buildings unfit for living.

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