02:20 - Source: CNN
Death toll climbs in Turkey quake

Story highlights

Reporter Cem Emir found dead in the rubble of a hotel

A quake that struck eastern Turkey last month killed more than 500 people

Fear of aftershocks keeping people away from their homes

Van, Turkey CNN —  

Dozens of rescue workers laboring with jackhammers and hacksaws searched the rubble of a five-story hotel Friday, two days after it collapsed in a 5.6-magnitude earthquake.

The death toll from Wednesday’s quake grew Friday to 25, the Emergency Crisis Center said.

Tearful relatives stood shivering on the perimeter of the around-the-clock rescue operation at Van’s devastated Bayram Hotel, where thick flakes of snow were falling. This time, members of Turkey’s press corps joined in the agonizing vigil for news about missing loved ones.

The body of Cem Emir, one of two journalists from Turkey’s DHA news agency believed to be buried in the rubble, was found Friday. The condition of the other reporter, Sebahattin Yilmaz, was not known.

The reporters had been staying in the hotel while reporting on the aftermath of last month’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake, which occurred in the same region, killing more than 500 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Earlier reports that said the two had been tweeting from under the rubble proved false, DHA said.

Much of downtown Van felt like a ghost town Friday. Most of the shops were closed. Huge cracks crisscrossed the facades of offices and apartment buildings. The few residents who traversed the city on foot took care to walk down the center of the streets, lest aftershocks jar loose debris from nearby buildings.

Some people preferred to remain on the streets rather than go home. “I have a three-story home,” Veysel Ece said. “But even if they gave me the green light to go back in, I wouldn’t. Psychologically, we are devastated.”

Ece has been sleeping in a tent next to his business, the Yuruyen Cafe. He has kept his humble tea house open around the clock since October 23, when the first quake struck Van. At 3 a.m. Friday, tables in the cafe were occupied by sleeping men who were terrified about going back to their homes.

Journalist Gul Tuysuz and CNN’s Talia Kayali and Hande Atay contributed to this report.