Istanbul building collapse death toll at 16

Rescue workers watch as a sniffer dog searches on Friday for survivors in the rubble of an eight-storey building that collapsed two days earlier in Istanbul. (AP Photo)

ISTANBUL: The death toll in the collapse of an eight-storey apartment building in Istanbul has risen to 16, Turkey’s interior minister said on Saturday.

The building in the residential Kartal district collapsed on Wednesday. The cause is under investigation but officials have said its top three floors were illegally built.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, speaking at the site early Saturday, said another body had been found in the rubble as emergency services continued their work.

Thirteen out of 14 people who were rescued alive remain in hospital with seven in serious condition.

Emergency services on Friday recovered four more bodies from the rubble of the building. One man said he lost nine members of his extended family.

Earlier in the day, rescuers pulled a 16-year-old boy out alive from under the rubble.

Friends and relatives waited near the wreckage for news of their missing loved ones as emergency teams, aided by sniffer dogs, worked around the clock to reach possible survivors.

Nedim Alemdar said 14 relatives were living in three separate apartments in the building located on the Asian side of the city. The building had been the family’s home for 25 years, he said.

“We have nine losses. My elder brother, our siblings, our children are all gone,” Alemdar, 43, told The Associated Press. “This is beyond imagination.”

Three other family members were being treated in the hospital, including his nine-year old son, who was trapped in the rubble for nine hours before he was rescued.

“It was an old building, there were some noises. … We could sense there was something wrong, but we didn’t think much of it,” he said outside the hospital.

Officials have not disclosed how many people are still unaccounted for. The building had 14 apartments with 43 registered residents in all.

The family of one missing woman, Seyma Kambur, received a glimmer of hope on Friday.

Relatives told The Associated Press that the 29-year-old’s older sister managed to reach Kambur on the phone, while Kambur was still trapped under the rubble along with four others who were still alive. 

“Our hopes had almost died but today, a million thanks to God. We’re relieved. We’ll be even more relieved if we see her face to face,” said Nuran Nuroglu, Kambur’s cousin. 

“She is a very good person. Everybody loves her, loves everything about her,” said her visibly distraught mother, Nadire Ceri. 

Ceri and members of her family were waiting for news at a nearby public school that had been turned into a crisis center. 

Soylu promised punishment for anyone found responsible for the collapse.

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