VAN, Turkey — Rescue workers on Thursday used cranes and listening devices to locate people trapped under the rubble of buildings toppled by the second earthquake to hit the eastern Turkish city of Van in three weeks.
They managed to pull 29 people out of the rubble of three occupied buildings, including two hotels, brought down by the quake. Rescue workers also found nine bodies.
There could be 100-150 people still trapped under the rubble, Turkish media reported.
The quake struck at 9:23 pm Wednesday, only 17 days after a 7.2-magnitude quake shook the same province, Van, killing more than 600 people.
The epicenter was in Edremit, a town 14 miles southwest of Van city center. No buildings collapsed there, apparently because the town is built on a foundation of rock.
Turkish earthquake expert Ahmet Ercan said that after the massive 7.2-magnitude quake of Oct. 23, the buildings in Van — a city of half a million people — were as “battered as a boxer after nine rounds in the ring.”
The collapse of the Bayram and Aslam hotels — buildings that had been deemed safe for occupation — had widespread repercussions in Van. Tens of thousands of people have fled the city, leaving its center resembling a ghost town.
After the October quake, thousands of Van apartments emptied as residents lost trust in their buildings and fled to tent cities or neighboring towns. Interior Minister Beshir Atalay said the government had sent 15,000 tents and 300 rescue workers to Van.
Most shops were closed Thursday and there was plenty of parking on even the busiest streets. One of the few shops open was a bakery, which had a queue of about 50 people outside it.
The government shared the lack of confidence in the city’s architecture and ordered the closure of all schools until Dec. 5.
Earlier Thursday, the 24th person to be rescued, a 60-year-old man identified only as Mehmet, came out of the flattened Bayram Hotel wearing only a white vest and blue boxer shorts, as rescue workers clamped an oxygen mask over his mouth, put him on a stretcher and carried him to an ambulance.
A doctor on the scene told NTV that Mehmet was conscious and suffering from hypothermia but that he did not appear to have life-threatening injuries.
The Bayram Hotel was the favorite haunt of journalists covering the last quake. French television reporter Assia Shihab told the German news agency dpa that during her three nights in the hotel, she noticed cracks in the walls of the staircase, corridors and some rooms. The elevator didn’t work, she said.
“The staff told us it was safe, but you could see they were not sure of themselves,” Shihab said, adding that her cameraman preferred to sleep in their car.
A Turkish cameraman with the private Cihan News Agency said he and two colleagues had left the Bayram Hotel when their car shook so violently that they realized an earthquake was under way. He told Channel 24 TV that they drove back to the hotel to fetch their equipment and found that the building had collapsed.
About 100 people were transported to local hospitals in the area around Van city, the broadcaster CNN Turk reported. Some of the injured were being flown to Ankara for treatment, NTV said.
The quake was followed by many aftershocks, two of which were of 4.5 magnitude.
The epicenters of Wednesday’s and the October 23 quakes were about 25 miles apart, on opposite sides of Van. But earthquake specialists said they stemmed from separate fault lines.
Seismic activity is continuing in the area, and “temblors of up to 6.2 magnitude can be expected,” Mustafa Erdik of Turkey’s Kandilli Observatory was quoted as saying in the Milliyet newspaper.