Videos show a desperate search for survivors near the earthquake’s epicenter

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ANTAKIA, Turkey – At dawn on Tuesday, rescuers rushed to use whatever they could – shovels, bare hands, random tools found on the street – to dig for survivors after the worst quake in land that has plagued Turkey for decades.

In the province of Hatay, buildings had crumbled into mountains of concrete, glass and twisted metal. Heavy machinery rumbled even as crews raced through freezing temperatures to find signs of life amid rubble littered with muddy curtains, blankets, bags and other items from people’s homes.

Hatay, which borders Syria to the south, has recorded Turkey’s highest known death toll since Monday’s quake, which killed thousands and stoked fears of a humanitarian crisis.

A group of women gathered near the heaps of rubble, their faces streaked with tears and contorted with grief. One of them was mourning her two missing children, saying they couldn’t die.

On the side of the road, a body lay wrapped in red.

When buildings in Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, collapsed, families flocked from across the country to help save their loved ones. A man cried for God to give him strength as others searched for survivors.

Around Hatay, residents said only a few government rescue teams arrived to help on Monday, leaving civilians to dig through the rubble. Although more government crews began showing up on Tuesday, most of the people rescuers pulled from the rubble were already dead.

In Odabasi, outside Antakya, men wept as they retrieved a body and placed it on a field.

Members of the Sahutoglu family gathered outside the Antakya Academy Private Hospital in northern Antakya, which was badly damaged. They had been waiting for more than 28 hours to hear from five family members, a relative in hospital and four male relatives who had gone to visit them and found themselves trapped inside from the hospital when the earthquake struck.

“No help has arrived,” a family member said. “Nobody came to see us. It’s like they’ve completely abandoned this town.

As the day progressed, glimmers of good news emerged. In the city center, a woman was pulled from the remains of a building – alive, conscious and swaddled in a blanket. Passersby cheered and cheered.

The street was too narrow for an ambulance to reach her, so she was taken to the main road nearby.

But for every person rescued, many more remained trapped. In the center of Hatay, bodies lay covered on the edge of a street.

So many people flocked to Antakya to search for loved ones that traffic jammed roads, blocking some ambulances, witnesses said.

Surviving the earthquake and aftershocks was only the first hurdle for many. There was no electricity or running water. Charities and aid groups had started distributing aid in some places. But there was almost nowhere to buy food: markets, cafes and restaurants were closed or destroyed.

More worryingly, people walking in the pouring rain in Antakya on Monday said they could hear cries for help coming from collapsed buildings but could do nothing.

“We can’t do this alone – we need machines,” said Ayten Guckan, a 65-year-old resident of Iskenderun, a small coastal town north of Hatay. She offered tea to anyone who wanted it from the back of her car.

Volunteers working with the search teams, who said they received many calls for help, insisted they were doing their best. Like many residents, they declined to give their names, fearing a reaction from the government.

“Our guys are playing with fire,” said a member of a search and rescue team, pointing to cracks in the lower part of a building where teams were trying to rescue a family. “It’s every rescuer’s nightmare.”

In Iskenderun, people dragged their luggage down the main street, dodging rubble that poured down both sides, their destination unknown.

Nimet Kirac contributed report.