The bodies of seven Cypriot students killed in the powerful earthquake that hit Turkey have been returned home, with Turkish media reporting that 19 children in the group died.
Two dozen children aged 11 to 14 from the island, along with 10 parents, four teachers and a volleyball coach, were in the southern Turkish city of Adiyaman when Monday’s quake hit.
The 7.8-magnitude tremor, whose epicentre was near Gaziantep, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Adiyaman, has claimed the lives of more than 21,000 people in Turkey and Syria.
The children had been taking part in a school volleyball tournament and had been staying in a hotel in Adiyaman that was completely destroyed by the quake.
“The bodies of 19 students have been found under the rubble,” a correspondent for Turkey’s NTV channel said.
A plane arrived in Cyprus the early hours of Friday with the bodies of the seven children as well as two teachers and a parent, local TV images showed.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar welcomed the bodies accompanied by other government and military officials of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet of northern Cyprus.
Officials on Friday confirmed 16 members of the group had died.
The tragedy has devastated the small breakaway statelet on the Mediterranean island of 270,000 residents.
The region’s government had declared a national mobilisation, hiring a private plane so they could join the search-and-rescue effort for the children.