The search for survivors at the Ground Zero epicentre of Turkey’s devastating earthquake turned into a hunt for bodies today.
MailOnline witnessed near apocalyptic scenes at a spot where more than half a dozen ten storey apartment blocks had collapsed, despite only being built less than 20-years-ago.
Families huddled around open fires as they grimly watched rescue teams dig into 40ft high piles of crushed concrete and twisted metal which were once their homes.
At least six diggers and a heavy crane scooped up rubble and dumped it into a fleet of waiting trucks, pausing only when yet another body was spotted.
The lorries then carried the piles of rubble away to dump on an area of waste ground less than a mile away.
The search for survivors at the Ground Zero epicentre of Turkey’s devastating earthquake turned into a hunt for bodies today
Police and soldiers with assault rifles guarded the scene of devastation beside a petrol station
Police and soldiers with assault rifles guarded the scene of devastation beside a petrol station next to a dual carriageway in the old town centre of Kahramanmaras in eastern Turkey.
Local residents believe the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the area with much greater severity than elsewhere due to it being on a geological fault line.
There were glimmers of hope elsewhere in Turkey with a 12-year-old boy called Kaan being rescued in the Antakya district of Hatay after being trapped for 182 hours.
Elsewhere in Hatay province, a son was pictured shouting in relief as his mother was lifted free from her collapsed home around 177 hours after the earthquake struck.
But there were no such scenes of jubilation in the remains of the flats which MailOnline visited off Haydar Aliev Bolevard in Kahramanmaras.
Instead rescuers were seen carrying out a series of bodies in black bags into surrounding streets as the death toll in Turkey and Syria topped 36,000.
Volunteer rescuer Kutalmis Kara, 32, said: ‘More than half the people in this area have died. These were their homes and now they are their graves.
‘It is terrible. We now have no hope of finding anyone alive. It is just a matter of looking for the bodies which we know are there.
At least six diggers and a heavy crane scooped up rubble and dumped it into a fleet of waiting trucks
Several cars were also crushed by rubble, along with play equipment including swings
Rescue teams dug into 40ft high piles of crushed concrete and twisted metal which were once homes
A 12-year-old child is rescued by the personnel from under rubble of a collapsed building in Antakya district of Hatay
An aerial view of collapsed buildings as search and rescue efforts continue after 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hit multiple provinces of Turkey
‘Some of the diggers are damaging bodies. It is terrible – but there is no other way of moving the rubble.’
Pointing to the remains of one block, he said: ‘We think there are still 20 people under there. We have got eight bodies out so far.
‘We found the bodies of one mother hugging her two girls and the body of the father cradling the little baby in his arms.
‘They were all in the same room of their home. It just crashed around them and they couldn’t get out.
‘I found a baby aged about one-year-old myself. It is heartbreaking to see. Another 32 people somehow came out alive before the building fell down.
‘They have now lost their homes and have been left with nothing. One of them was later killed by Syrian looters.’
Another resident Gokhan Genj who lost both his parents in the disaster said: ‘I was in the basement so I lived.
‘My father was found yesterday and my mother’s body was detected today. I cannot believe they have gone.
‘I had a dream that this earthquake would happen about a month ago. I told my family and I wanted to warn the world, and now it has happened.’
Personal possessions including children’s toys and clothing, smashed crockery and domestic appliances could be seen in the piles of debris at the scene.
Several cars were also crushed by rubble, along with play equipment including swings and a slide in a square between the flats.
Families watching the demolition work were sustained by charity workers
Sports Centre in Kahramanmara with people unloading wood for tents
Surrounding residential tower blocks which remained standing were left with gaping holes where chunks of masonry had crashed to the ground.
Curtains billowed out of flats where window frames had been shaken out, and some had collapsed ceilings inside.
Demolition workers who spotted bodies went through a grim ritual of covering remains with old blankets salvaged from the rubble, to enable them to be extricated with some privacy.
MailOnline found several groups of residents warming themselves in near freezing temperatures behind open fires, burning scavenged pieces of wood and debris.
Smoke from the fires mingled with concrete dust whipped up from the rubble by the chilly winds, creating a smog-like haze which left some people coughing and choking.
Families watching the demolition work were sustained by charity workers handing out bread rolls with a lamb mince filling, cups of tea and bottled water.
One man, speaking to MailOnline through Google Translate, tapped out a message on his mobile phone, saying: ‘My whole family is dead.’
A resident called Ali added: ‘These places were about 20-years-old. They should have been built to withstand earthquakes.
‘Instead they just collapsed like packs of cards because the power of the earthquake was too strong. So many people have died.’
Another woman, speaking through an interpreter, said: ‘We have lost everything. Our home has gone.’
Survivors in Kahramanmaras have been living in tent cities which have sprung up around the city in open fields and roadside spots.
Many are queuing up to be fed by mobile kitchens set up by aid agencies and charities.
Around 150 giant tents have been set up by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) in the middle of a running track at the Atat?rk Spor Merkezi sports stadium in the city.
MailOnline found children playing happily outside their tents, seemingly treating their stay as an adventure
Piles of shoes and clothing were left at the stadium for homeless survivors to sift through after fleeing for their lives with only the clothes they were wearing at the time of the earthquake.
Lorries were seen delivered bags of firewood to be burned on stoves with chimney vents in each of the tents.
Roads in and out of the city were lined with homes, farm buildings and businesses premises which had collapsed.
Faruk Kisa of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was staying with his mother and disabled brother at their home in nearby Kapicam when the earthquake struck
He said: ‘Our house lis a little bit broken, but we are lucky. About 25 homes here are completely broken. Some are new and some are old.
‘I was going to go home, but then the earthquake came and I have to stay to look after my mum and brother.’
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