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Turkish rescuers find last quake victims as death toll hits 41

By Associated Press Reporter

Turkish emergency teams have recovered the bodies of the last two missing quake victims from the rubble of a collapsed building, raising the death toll from the powerful tremor that hit eastern Turkey to 41.

The magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck on Friday night also injured more than 1,600 others. At least 45 survivors were pulled out of the rubble alive.

Rescue teams on Monday drilled through the rubble in the eastern city of Elazig, trying to reach a missing 75-year-old woman and another person, as relatives waited nearby.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Mehmet Gulluoglu, the head of the Turkish disaster management agency, later announced that their bodies were pulled out from the debris.

The body of a third missing person was pulled out of the same collapsed structure overnight.

Tents have been set up for survivors (AP)

Television footage showed scores of emergency workers gathered in a circle near the rubble to pray for the victims, before the search-and-rescue mission was formally called off.

The quake destroyed 76 buildings and damaged more than 1,000 others, forcing survivors to take refuge in tents, mosques, schools, sports halls and student dormitories. Authorities warned people not to return to homes that could be unsafe.

As overnight temperatures dropped to minus 5C, emergency teams set up more than 9,500 tents for displaced residents and distributed hot meals.

Over the weekend, rescuers pulled out Ayse Yildiz, 35, and her two-year-old daughter Yusra from the rubble of another toppled building in Elazig. They had been trapped for 28 hours.

The quake destroyed several buildings in Elazig (AP)

Turkey’s Emergency and Disaster Management Presidency said close to 4,000 workers and 22 dogs have been involved in the search and rescue operation since Friday.

Earthquakes are frequent in Turkey, which sits atop two major fault lines.

Friday’s quake hit at 8.55pm in the city that lies 350 miles east of Ankara. It was followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

It is not the first time that Elazig has seen a fatal quake – a magnitude 6.0 earthquake killed 51 people there in 2010.

Turkey’s worst quake in decades came in 1999, when a pair of strong earthquakes struck north-west Turkey, killing around 18,000 people.