Izmir, Turkey — Search-and-rescue efforts continue in Turkey’s western city of Izmir, where a magnitude 7.0 earthquake killed at least 64 people and injured more than 900 others when it struck early Friday morning.
Rescuers are racing against time to reach survivors trapped under rubble on eight different apartment blocks. Dozens of people are still unaccounted for, local agencies say, and families gathered around the crashed buildings on Sunday, hoping to find their loved ones.
Yesim Emir, a 29-year-old dentist, was thought to have been stuck under an 8-story building when it collapsed. Fighting back tears, her mother Sibel Suruc said her family had been waiting to see if she survived.
“I am praying she will come out alive,” she told CBS News.
So far, 104 people have been pulled out of the rubble alive, Turkey’s environment and urbanization minister said.
The country’s Disaster and Relief Agency reported more than 5,700 personnel from state agencies, local governments and civil society groups had been mobilized for rescue work. Hundreds of them were also called for food distribution, psycho-social help and damage control for buildings.
Local TV stations showed fearless rescue workers sliding through the cracks of crashed buildings to reach survivors.
Burak Galip Akkurt is one of them. He said survivors of past disasters had been found alive even after five days of being buried under debris.
“We never give up hope. It is for the team, but also those who are waiting outside,” he said.
There were lucky escapes when the quake struck, as well. Zeki Soysal watched the building where he had a shop partially crash in front of his eyes. He said he doesn’t care that he lost his business, and is “just grateful to be alive.”
More than 2,000 people will spend another night in tents. Many fear to go back inside their homes as aftershocks continue, with more than 900 recorded in the last 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 promised to “heal the wounds” before winter arrives.
The epicenter of the earthquake was located in the Aegean Sea, roughly 10 miles off the coast of Turkey. The most severe damage occurred in Izmir, but two teenagers on Greece’s Samos Island were also killed.
A small tsunami flooded the streets of the town of Seferihisar on the Turkish coast, killing a woman in a wheelchair, local media reported.
Turkey sits on active fault lines and experienced major earthquakes in the past. A magnitude 7.5 earthquake killed more than 17,000 people in 1999.
The most recent quake came as Turkey struggles with an increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
Health minister Fahrettin Koca said he understands the difficulty of practicing social distancing in crowded tents or other temporary relief centers, but still warned against the coronavirus threat.
“We urge all our citizens to continue carrying out precautions against the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “We cannot give in to the pandemic while we deal with the aftermath of the earthquake.”