(AP) — Rescuers pulled more survivors from beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings Thursday, but hopes were starting to fade of finding many more people alive more than three days after a catastrophic earthquake and series of aftershocks hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 16,000.
The earthquake that razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria has become one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to travel Thursday to the quake-hit provinces of Gaziantep, Osmaniye and Kilis amid ongoing criticism that the government’s response has been too slow.
In addition to 12,873 people killed in Turkey, the country’s disaster management agency said more than 60,000 have been injured. On the Syrian side of the border, 3,162 have been reported dead and more than 5,000 injured.
Tens of thousands are thought to have lost their homes.
Experts said the survival window for those trapped under the rubble or otherwise unable to obtain basic necessities was closing rapidly. At the same time, they said, it is too soon to abandon hope.
Three prisoners were killed after rioting broke out at a prison in quake-hit Hatay province, officials and news reports said.
There were conflicting reports over the incident.
The Justice Ministry said Thursday some inmates started a fire in an attempt to escape, prompting an “intervention” by prison authorities.
At least 12 prisoners were injured during the attempt to suppress the riot and three of them died in the hospital, the ministry’s directorate for prisons said in a statement.
The independent Bianet news website reported that some prisoners set dormitories on fire, demanding to be transferred to a safe location, and sought information about family members affected by the devastation.
Bianet said the incident occurred on Tuesday — a day after the earthquake hit. All prisoners were transferred to other penitentiaries, it said.
North Korea says its foreign minister sent a message of condolences to her Turkish counterpart over the earthquake that killed thousands in that country and Syria.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Thursday that Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui in her message to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed “deep sympathy and condolences” to victims and their families and wished for a swift recovery.
North Korea had sent a much higher profile message to Syria, issued by leader Kim Jong Un to Syrian President Bashar Assad. State media said Wednesday that Kim in the message said Syria under Assad’s leadership would “eradicate the aftermath of the earthquake damage as soon as possible.”
Turkey sent thousands of troops to South Korea to fight under U.S.-led U.N. forces as they repelled a North Korean invasion during the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea and Syria are the only nations other than Russia that recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, as they align with Moscow over the war in Ukraine.