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11 November 2011

Death toll from quake in Turkey reaches 19


Rescue workers pull out a man from the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Van, eastern Turkey, early Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. Rescuers have pulled out 24 survivors from the rubble of three buildings, collapsed by an earthquake in Van, the country's disaster management authority said Thursday. At least seven were killed and dozens of others trapped. The magnitude-5.7 quake was a grim replay of the previous magnitude-7.2 earthquake that hit Oct. 23, killing more than 600 people. (AP Photo )

Van, Turkey (CNN) -- Fat snowflakes began to fall onto dozens of rescue workers laboring with jackhammers and hack-saws through the rubble of a five story hotel, which collapsed in Wednesday night's 5.6 magnitude earthquake.

Meanwhile, the death toll swelled to 19 victims on Friday, according to the Turkish prime ministry's disaster management office. Thirty others have been rescued.

Tearful relatives stood shivering on the perimeter of the 24-hour rescue operation at Van's devastated Bayram Hotel. This time, members of Turkey's press corps joined in the agonizing vigil for news on missing loved ones. Two journalists from Turkey's DHA news agency were among those believed to be buried in the rubble. The reporters had been staying in the Bayram Hotel while reporting on the aftermath of last month's much deadlier 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which left more than 500 people dead and hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

Much of downtown Van now feels like a ghost town. Most of the shops are closed. Huge ominous cracks criss-cross the facades of office and apartment buildings. The few residents who wander the city take care to walk down the center of the streets, fearing falling debris from nearby buildings in the event of further aftershocks.

"I have a three story home. But even if they gave me the green light to go back in, I wouldn't," said Veysel Ece. "Psychologically we are devastated."

Ece has been sleeping in a tent next to his business, the Yuruyen Café. He has kept his humble tea-house open around the clock since the earth first shook Van on October 23.

At 3 a.m., exhausted men slept on tables in the café, clearly to terrified to go back to their homes.

- CNN