Rescue workers in southeastern Turkey have saved at least two more people and continue to search for survivors of Sunday’s devastating earthquake that killed at least 461 people and injured more than 1,300.
On Wednesday, workers rescued a 27-year-old teacher and a university student from collapsed buildings.
However, authorities say hopes of finding more people alive is quickly fading, with hundreds, even thousands, still trapped under the debris.
Sunday’s 7.2 magnitude quake near Turkey’s border with Iran has left thousands of people homeless. And despite aid workers’ best efforts, supplies and shelter needed for victims are running short, as temperatures drop. One victim says he has been trying unsuccessfully to get a tent for two days.
“I have five children,” he said. “We’ve been waiting in the rain. I haven’t been able to get a tent for two days now. Yesterday morning, I was here from nine to 12, but I couldn’t make it to the front. I am here again today, and I have no idea when it’ll be my turn.”
Israel’s military has responded to an official Turkish request for aid with a promise to send special equipment, including emergency housing units, as soon as possible. Turkey had earlier turned down Israel’s offer of aid for those who lost their homes in the quake.
Nearly 90 countries have offered assistance, but Turkey had initially only accepted help from Iran and Azerbaijan, which border the quake-stricken area.
The International Federation of the Red Cross says its Turkish chapter is working to assist survivors and reach those trapped in the rubble. The Red Cross says more than 7,500 tents and 22,000 blankets have been distributed, as well as stoves, food and clean water.
Officials say the quake did the most damage in the town of Ercis, 90 kilometers north of the city of Van, shutting down electricity and water in several areas. Hundreds of aftershocks have shaken the area since the quake hit, including a moderately strong one on Tuesday, measuring 5.4, that sent people rushing into the streets.
Prisoners unnerved by the aftershock rioted and started fires at a prison in Van. The prisoners wanted to be allowed to evacuate the jail, but security forces surrounded the building to keep the inmates from escaping.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the area Sunday. He said mud-brick homes in nearby villages had all been flattened.
World leaders have sent condolences to Turkey. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia made a joint telephone call to Turkish President Abdullah Gul to express their sympathies. U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Turkey during this difficult time.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Turkish authorities for their rapid response to the disaster and said the U.N. remains ready to offer help if requested.
Major geological fault lines cross the region and small earthquakes are a frequent occurrence.