Turkish rescuers drill into rubble to seek quake victims

ANKARA, TURKEY: Turkish emergency teams drilled through the rubble Monday, searching for the last two missing quake victims believed trapped beneath a collapsed building after eastern Turkey was slammed by a powerful tremor.

The magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck Friday night killed at least 39 people and injured more than 1,600 others, authorities said. At least 45 survivors were pulled out of the rubble alive.

Rescue workers were working at a collapsed building in the city of Elazig, trying to reach a missing 75-year old woman and another person, as relatives waited patiently nearby, NTV television reported. It was not immediately clear if the missing two have survived.

The body of a third missing person was pulled out of the collapsed structure overnight, raising the death toll in the quake to 39, NTV reported.

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 -5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit), 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 2-year-old daughter Yusra from the rubble of another toppled apartment building in Elazig. They had been trapped for 28 hours.

One rescued couple was reunited with a Syrian student who had helped to dig them out with his hands.

"He is our hero and angel," a weeping Dudane Aydin said of Mahmud al Osman.

Her husband Zulkuf said the student went to extraordinary lengths to get them out, especially when his wife's leg was trapped by debris. With other workers holding the student by his legs, he stretched toward the woman and freed her.

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 8:55 pm in the city that lies 565 kilometers (350 miles) east of Ankara. It was followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

It's 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 northwest Turkey, killing around 18,000 people.