by correspondents Van, in Turkey From: AFP   couriermail.com.au October 25, 2011 

Hopes of finding more survivors from a massive earthquake that killed nearly 300 people in eastern Turkey are diminishing as more bodies are recovered by rescuers.

 

“We recovered his baby bed,” said a 34-year-old man whose nine-month-old nephew was lying beneath piles of rubble.

 

His desperately sad and pleading eyes were speaking volumes about his suffering.

 

“God willing we will find him alive too,” he said, without diverting his eyes from the scene where rescue operations continued non-stop for two days. The man said his brother, the baby’s father, was also under the collapsed building.

 

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which struck on Sunday in eastern Van city, collapsed a seven-storey building in one of the central areas in the city.

 

Rescuers have recovered seven bodies from the building as efforts were continuing overnight.

 

“Today we have recovered the bodies of a couple who embraced one another,” said a rescue worker, who declined to be named.

 

From 15 to 20 more people are expected to be inside the building, said rescuers.

 

The locals said the number would be even higher if the quake had not hit over the weekend when many were outside for picnicking or other leisure time activities.

 

“Hopes are so slim now,” said 23-year-old Emrah Erbek who joined dozens of rescue workers.

 

“We have been working non-stop for 48 hours,” he said, showing his dusty and muddy clothes.

 

“There is no dead or injured from my family but all those people in this apartment building are my friends,” he said, pointing out the rubble.

 

Heavy machinery was used to sift through the wreckage as residents and relatives of the trapped gathered around small fires at night in the freezing cold.

 

The machinery was at the second floor on Monday night and rescue workers said they would reach the ground zero the next day.

 

A rescue worker said his team recovered a daughter and a mother crouching behind a couch, who probably squeezed there as a safe space during the quake.

 

“It has been more than 35 hours and after this it is in the lap of the gods,” said Kadir Pilge, crane driver.

 

The confirmed death toll from the powerful earthquake in Van province stood at 279, according to government officials. Some 1,300 people were injured.

 

Some 169 people were killed in Ercis district, while 95 died in Van city centre, the Anatolia news agency reported. A total of 970 buildings collapsed as a result of the quake and aftershocks are still continuing.

 

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