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Boys found alive in quake rubble

A trapped student gestures as a rescuer works to pull him from the rubble in Bingol, Turkey.
A trapped student gestures as a rescuer works to pull him from the rubble in Bingol, Turkey.

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Death toll rising after earthquake hits southeastern Turkey
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BINGOL, Turkey (CNN) -- At least seven boys were pulled out alive early Friday from the rubble of a collapsed school dormitory destroyed by an earthquake that has devastated southeastern Turkey.

The magnitude 6.4 earthquake has killed about 100 people and injured 450 others, authorities said. The death toll is expected to climb.

Rescue crews used sophisticated listening devices to detect boys alive in the rubble, and worked through the night to free them. Journalist Gokhan Eren said he saw at least seven boys pulled out alive in the early hours of the morning.

"I see a mother sitting right on top of the rubble, just hitting herself and mourning. Meanwhile, rescue workers suddenly rejoicing and bringing out a boy who's holding his hand up and waving it around, as if he was just born," Eren told CNN.

Each time a boy is freed from the twisted heap of concrete, his name is announced to a crowd of relatives. Rescuers then call for silence so they can listen for more voices, and the digging begins again.

"I just hope my son will be rescued alive," said Osman Karatas, whose 18-year-old son Ahmet attended the Celtiksuyu boarding school outside Bingol.

The school -- which housed 199 children ranging in age from 12 to 18 -- has been reduced to rubble. Rescue crews said at least 37 bodies were pulled from the boys' dormitory, which had its two top floors collapse.

Many of the boys were killed in a hallway trying to rush to safety as the building gave way. Others were killed when the ceiling came crashing down, rescuers said.

The girls' dormitory was completely destroyed, and officials said they have not heard any sounds of children alive there. They have not said how many girls were housed there.

Authorities said Wednesday 106 students and two teachers were brought alive. Another teacher died en route to the hospital.

The quake struck at 3:27 a.m. (0027 GMT) and was centered in Bingol, according to the Kandilli Observatory, the largest in Turkey.

Bingol Mayor Feyzullah Karaaslan said the quake knocked out power and brought down 25 buildings in his city, about 500 kilometers (320 miles) east of Ankara.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured the city Thursday and promised aid was on the way. Turkish troops were bringing food, tents, and mobile hospitals stockpiled in preparation for the war in Iraq to the stricken area.

"All of our state organizations and the Red Crescent are now in Bingol," he said. "There are some more reaching the town and some on their way to Bingol from Ankara."

Bingol is a small and underdeveloped city with few high-rises and not much heavy industry. Nevertheless, officials warned residents to stay away from their homes for fear of collapse.

In the U.S., the State Department offered "deepest sympathies" to earthquake victims. Deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said the U.S. Embassy in Ankara would continue to be "in close contact" with the Turkish government as it responds to the quake.

Earthquakes are common in Turkey, which lies on the Anatolia fault. A quake of magnitude 6.4 is classified as a strong quake, capable of causing widespread damage, especially in areas of poor construction.

In 1999, a 7.4 earthquake struck northwestern Turkey, near the Sea of Marmara, killing more than 18,000 people. Poor construction standards were blamed for the large number of deaths.

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