Japanese man who came to help quake victims dies in Turkish tremor

A JAPANESE aid worker who travelled to Turkey to help the rescue operation after last month’s devastating earthquake was among the five dead pulled from buildings wrecked in this week’s quake, increasing the death toll so far to at least 17.

Disaster management official Askit Dayi said the body of a middle-aged man was found under one of two collapsed hotels, the Bayram Hotel, in the eastern city of Van. Four more bodies were pulled out later.

“We are not able to hear any voices,” said Mr Dayi. “But still we are removing layers of concrete in a way as if there are survivors.”

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Recep Salci, of the rescue group Akut, told reporters freezing temperatures at night were also posing a threat to any possible survivors. It was not clear how many people were still missing but they included two Turkish journalists. The Aslan Hotel in Van also collapsed.

The hotels, apparently weakened by last month’s magnitude-7.2 earthquake, came down on Wednesday night when a magnitude-5.6 quake shook the area.

Protesters in Van accused authorities of failing to properly inspect the buildings following the October 23 quake which killed more than 600 people. Police responded with pepper spray.

Those protests spread to national TV when one anchorman, Mustafa Yenigun of Flash TV, covered his mouth with a black tape as he held a banner which read: “People are under the rubble because of uncompleted tasks” – a reference to the failure to fully inspect damaged buildings.

Turks paid tribute to the dead Japanese aid worker, Atsushi Miyazaki, calling him a benefactor on Twitter and lamenting that he died in a relatively weak earthquake compared with the one that devastated Japan in March.

“His name is Atsushi, his surname is human,” wrote Ertugrul Ozkok, a columnist for Hurriyet newspaper today. “A great Samurai.”

Mr Miyazaki had helped distribute food to quake survivors in Van. Mr Miyazaki’s 32-year-old female colleague, Miyuki Konnai, was rescued alive from the wreckage and is in a stable condition.