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Death toll from Turkey quake rises to 22; two journalists missing

November 11, 2011 |  9:25 am

Turkish rescue workers search for survivors
Rescue workers were searching Friday for two journalists believed trapped in the rubble of a hotel as the death toll from a 5.7-magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey rose to at least 22.

Journalists and relief workers had rushed to the region after a more powerful earthquake struck on Oct. 23, killing more than 600 people. A Japanese relief worker was among those who died when two hotels that had been weakened by the previous quake collapsed in Wednesday's temblor.

Staff from Turkey’s Dogan news agency and other survivors watched Friday as rescue workers combed through the wreckage of the Bayram Hotel in the city of Van, hoping for news of their colleagues, the Associated Press reported.

"In our profession we always come across disasters," the agency's general manager, Ugur Cebeci, told AP. "But we are grappling with helplessness here."

On Thursday, police used pepper spray to break up a demonstration by dozens of Van residents, angry that the hotels weren't closed after last month’s quake.

The owner of the Bayram Hotel was quoted in local media as saying that inspectors had given his property the all-clear, AFP news agency reported.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his government would start a "legal process" against those responsible for faulty inspections.

"Please do not enter damaged buildings and even do not approach them,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by AFP. “Aftershocks are still continuing."

Turkey is one of the world's most seismically active countries and is crisscrossed by several major fault lines.  In 1999, two earthquakes of magnitude greater than 7.0 killed about 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Smaller earthquakes happen almost daily.


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Photo: Turkish rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Van, Turkey, on Friday. Credit: Bertan Ayduk / Associated Press