VAN, Turkey (AP) — Rescue workers pulled out the bodies of five more quake victims Friday, increasing the death toll in Turkey's latest deadly temblor to at least 17, including a Japanese aid worker who came after a devastating earthquake last month.
Disaster management official Askit Dayi said the body of a middle-aged man was recovered under one of the two collapsed hotels, Bayram Hotel, in the eastern city of Van. Four more bodies were pulled out later, said Turkey's state-run TRT television.
"We are not able to hear any voices," said Dayi. "But still we are removing layers of concrete in a way as if there are survivors."
Recep Salci of the rescue group Akut told NTV television that freezing temperatures at night were also posing a threat to any possible survivors.
Rescue teams were using an emergency evacuation plan to determine possible escape routes within the pancaked building, said Bulent Gunduz of the Siemens private rescue team.
"We can see all escape routes and fire stairs," said Gunduz. "The emergency floor plan has become like a compass for us."
Relatives of missing people huddled around campfires near the wreckage of the once five-story Bayram Hotel as they waited for news. It was not clear how many people were still missing, but they included two Turkish journalists. The Aslan Hotel in Van also collapsed.
"We hope to finish our search by midnight Friday," Dayi said.
The hotels, apparently weakened by last month's magnitude-7.2 earthquake, came down Wednesday night when a magnitude-5.6 quake shook the area. Angry residents protested in Van, accusing authorities of failing to properly inspect the buildings following the Oct. 23 quake that killed more than 600 people. Police responded with pepper spray.
Those protests spread to national TV when one anchorman, Mustafa Yenigun of Flash TV, covered his mouth with a black tape Thursday evening as he held a banner that read: "people are under the rubble because of uncompleted tasks" — a reference to the failure to fully inspect damaged buildings.
Rescue worker Ramazan Demiregen said the steel rods in the columns of the collapsed Bayram Hotel were too thin.
Turks paid tribute to the dead Japanese aid worker, Atsushi Miyazaki, calling him a benefactor on Twitter and lamenting that he died in a relatively weak earthquake compared to the massive one and tsunami that devastated Japan in March.
"His name is Atsushi, his surname is human," wrote Ertugrul Ozkok, a columnist for Hurriyet newspaper on Friday. "A great Samurai."
Miyazaki had helped distribute meat to quake survivors in Van province during Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice. Other Japanese workers said they were thankful for Turkey's aid workers who came to help Japan in March, local media reported.
Miyazaki's 32-year-old female colleague, Miyuki Konnai, was rescued alive from the wreckage and was in stable condition.
Associated Press writer Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara contributed.
- Bayram Hotel