Turkish PM visits earthquake victims

Erdogan meets survivors in country’s east, where at least 640 people have died in the recent natural disasters.

Tayyip Erdogan - visits quake-hit zone - Ercis
 Two deadly quakes over the last two weeks have killed at least 640 people and left many homeless [AFP]

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has visited parts of eastern Turkey where two earthquakes over the last two weeks have killed at least 640 people and left many homeless.

His first stop on Saturday was the town of Ercis, where thousands of survivors from the October 7.2-magnitude quake still live in tents, even as the snow has blanketed much of the region.

Then he toured Van, which was hit again by a magnitude-5.7 quake on Wednesday.

The October 23 quake killed 604 people and destroyed at least 2,000 buildings in Ercis and in the city of Van. About 1,400 aftershocks have rocked the region since the initial quake in October.

Among the victims of Wednesday’s quake were a Japanese aid worker and two Turkish journalists

At least 36 other people were killed when two hotels collapsed in Van on Wednesday.

Among the victims were a Japanese aid worker and two Turkish journalists, who had gone to the area after the initial tremor in October.

Rescue workers discovered the bodies of the reporters, Sebahattin Yilmaz and Cem Emir, from the Dogan news agency early Saturday in the rubble of the Bayram Hotel.

The Japanese aid worker Atsushi Miyazaki was rescued alive from the wreckage of that hotel but died in a hospital on Thursday.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, a ceremony was held as his body was transferred into vehicle for repatriation.

Clashes broke out on Thursday as rescue teams searched for survivors after the second quake hit the city of Van.

Riot police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse protesters angry over insufficient relief efforts. An estimated 300 demonstrators chanted for the resignation of the provincial governor in a rally close to the two city-centre hotels that collapsed during the quake.

They called on the governor to resign because he had told locals it was safe for them to return to the buildings.

“They died because they listened to the governor,” people in the crowd yelled.

‘Pulled out alive’

Turkey’s disaster management authority said on Saturday that 30 people were pulled out alive from the rubble of the collapsed hotels in Van.

Meanwhile, Turks paid tribute to 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.

Miyazaki, a Japanese doctor sent to help with last month’s earthquake, died after being pulled from the rubble [AFP]

Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president, sent a message of condolence to Japan’s Emperor Akihito, saying Miyazaki and an injured colleague would be remembered with gratitude by the Turkish people.

“We will always remember these self-sacrificing people, who won over the hearts of the Turkish people through their outstanding efforts in Van, with gratitude and respect,” Gul said in his letter.

Meanwhile, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, also gave his condolences on the foreign ministry’s twitter account. “From now on, Miyazaki’s family is also our family,” Davutoglu said.

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.

The Japan’s Association for Aid and Relief employee was caught in her hotel room while writing a report on her laptop after having visited villages affected by the earlier tremor.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies