Death toll exceeds 40,000, mass funerals continue

Death toll exceeds 40,000, mass funerals continue
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In earthquake-stricken Turkey, search and rescue efforts have given way to a struggle to locate bodies of loved ones and conduct proper burials with religious rites

Twelve days after the massive twin earthquakes in Turkey, 40,642 people have died, and the number is expected to rise as some 264,000 homes in the country have been destroyed and many people are still missing in this worst modern disaster.

While many international rescue teams have left the huge quake zone, local teams continued to search the destroyed buildings on Saturday, hoping to find more survivors who defied the odds.

40-year-old Hakan Yasinoglu was rescued 278 hours after the earthquake in the southern province of Hatay, according to the Istanbul Fire Department.

Earlier, Osman Halebiye, 14, and Mustafa Avci, 34, were rescued in the historic city of Antakya, Turkey. As Avci was being taken away, he turned on a video call with his parents, who showed him his newborn baby.

"I had already lost all hope. This is a true miracle. They gave me back my son. I saw the wreckage and thought that no one from there can be rescued alive," said his father.

Meanwhile, mosques around the world on Friday performed absentee funeral prayers for the dead in Turkey and Syria, many of whom could not receive full burial rites given the enormity of the disaster.

In the Turkish town of Pazarcik, a soccer field has been transformed into a burial ground for victims of the earthquake 11 days ago. The goalposts are still standing, but the field is littered with about 100 mounds and trenches.

In a cemetery in Kahramanmaras, thousands of new graves far outnumbered those from before the earthquake, illustrating the scale of the disaster.

Tents had been erected to perform Islamic burial rituals and wrap the bodies in a shroud. Empty coffins that had been sent from all over Turkey were piled up. A Muslim cleric stood by to perform the rituals.

Many people are still waiting to find the bodies of their loved ones. On Friday, thousands across Turkey took part in symbolic funerals for the dead still lying under the rubble.

People carried the bodies in bags to the graves. The sound of prayer recitations competed with the noise of excavators digging more trenches in the distance.