VAN, Turkey — Trapped under the rubble after an earthquake brought down the hotel she was staying in, Japanese aid worker Miyuki Konnai had more to worry about than her fear of the dark, but a "ray of light" from her laptop helped her survive the ordeal.
Konnai had come to Van, a city in the remote east of Turkey, along with other Japanese aid workers to help survivors of a major 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Oct. 23 that killed more than 600 people and left thousands of families homeless.
The Bayram Hotel where she was staying was so damaged by that quake that when a smaller 5.7 magnitude tremor struck on Wednesday night, the five-story building came tumbling down.A flattened hotel, a heart-stopping flashback
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Rescue teams frantically searched for more survivors after the quake heaped misery on the predominantly Kurdish region where more than 600 people died following a major quake on October 23.
At least 12 people were killed in the latest temblor, including compatriot Atsushi Miyazaki, a doctor who had been helping the stricken community. Miyazaki, of Japan's Association for Aid and Relief, Japan, had been Konnai's colleague.
Miyazaki died in a hospital after being dug out Thursday from the rubble of the Bayram Hotel. Rescue workers performed CPR on him before taking him to the hospital.
"We first heard a voice but could not determine whether it was that of a woman or a man. Then we opened a small hole in the concrete where we thought the voice came," a Turkish rescue worker told state-run TRT television. "When I checked inside with my hand, he suddenly grabbed my fingers. I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life."
TRT did not identify the rescue worker.
Konnai, a slightly built 32-year-old woman, was still conscious when she was dug out after waiting in the rubble for five hours.
"When I was waiting for the rescue team I kept telling myself, 'I cannot die here. I have lots of things I want to do in the future' ... (I kept) cheering myself up and waiting," she told Reuters at a hospital where she was taken for checks.
Sitting on a couch in one of the few parts of a hospital deemed safe enough to withstand jolts from the many aftershocks still rattling the region, Konnai looked exhausted and overwhelmed, but eager to describe how she survived.
"I really hate being in the dark so I was scared of opening my eyes and finding out I'm in complete darkness. So I was trying not to open my eyes," she said, her pale face marked by scratches and her hands fluttering as she spoke.
"But I was also afraid of not knowing what's going on outside and I tried to open my eyes, but I couldn't because of lots of dust getting in my eyes.PhotoBlog: Aid worker rescued from rubble of earthquake dies
"When I finally managed to open my left eye slowly, there was a ray of light I could see in what I thought was complete darkness. That light gave me a relief and gave me a hope to live. That was the light from the computer I was using."
Outside the hospital, medical staff sat huddled round an open fire to keep warm. Hospital beds were lined up in the open with medical equipment set up as an outdoor emergency center, while a tent served as a ward for patients.
Konnai said she had been moved by the amount of support Turkey had given Japan in the wake of the tsunami and nuclear disaster earlier this year, and had wanted to repay Turks for their support.
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay visited Konnai in hospital and asked her if she needed help to return to Japan.
"I want to stay here and continue our work," she said.
'This is wrong'
Protests erupted as 200 demonstrators called for the resignation of the provincial governor in a rally close to the two hotels that collapsed during the latest quake.
Riot police charged the crowd with batons, and some people fell in the melee. Police used pepper spray to disperse the protesters, but the gas also affected nearby rescue and health workers, the Hurriyet newspaper said on its website.
"How is it that these two buildings were not sealed off and were allowed to continue operating?" asked Osman Baydemir, a mayor for the southeastern city of Diyarbakir and a member of a pro-Kurdish opposition party. "The government must bring those responsible to account."
Residents accused local authorities of not properly inspecting damaged buildings and called for the resignation of Gov. Munir Karaloglu, who arrived to tour the damage. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay tried to talk to the protesters, but he angrily walked away as they booed the officials.
Some of those buried in the second quake were Turkish journalists covering the aftermath of the first earthquake, which left thousands homeless as cold weather began to close in on the mountainous region.
Two reporters from Turkey's Dogan news agency were still believed to be trapped in the hotel debris.
Thousands of families are living in makeshift camps with temperatures falling to freezing with the onset of winter. The government says there are enough tents for anyone who needs them.
"Our people are freezing. We are sleeping outside — all seven of my family ... Some people take five tents, some 10 and others get nothing. This is wrong."
The October temblor destroyed at least 2,000 buildings in Van and in the worst-hit town of Ercis. About 1,400 aftershocks have rocked the region since then.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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