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Death toll rises to 35 as Turkish crews continue search for earthquake survivors

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Working against the clock in freezing temperatures, Turkish rescue teams pulled more survivors from collapsed buildings Sunday, days after a powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit the country’s east.

Authorities said the death toll rose to at least 35 people.

Turkish television showed Ayse Yildiz, 35, and her 2-year-old daughter Yusra being dragged out of the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in the city of Elazig. They had been trapped for 28 hours after the earthquake struck on Friday night.

The magnitude 6.8 quake also injured over 1,600 people but 45 survivors have been pulled alive from the rubble so far, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference Sunday in Istanbul.

As overnight temperatures dropped to -5 degrees Celsius, emergency teams set up more than 9,500 tents for displaced residents and distributed 17,000 hot meals.

Rescue teams concentrated their efforts in the city’s Mustafa Pasa neighborhood and the nearby town of Sivrice, the closest residential area to the quake’s epicenter.

Nearly 680 aftershocks rocked the region as more than 3,500 rescue experts scrambled through wrecked buildings to reach survivors, working around the clock. A magnitude 4.3 quake hit also neighboring Malatya province on Sunday morning, the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said.

The agency said 76 buildings were destroyed and more than 1,000 damaged in the quake. Unmanned aerial drones were being used to survey damaged neighborhoods and coordinate rescue efforts.

Erdogan said every effort was being made to alleviate conditions and promised to house displaced residents as soon as possible.

“Turkey has begun to heal the wounds of this great disaster in unity, togetherness and coming together,” he said.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu promised financial help for the victims of the quake.

The president visited the disaster zone on Saturday to inspect the rescue operation, meet with injured people in the hospital and attend the funeral of a mother and son.

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