Search for Turkish quake survivors called off

Many camped out in tents or make-shift shelters, fearing more building collapses in aftershocks.

Last Updated: Oct 29, 2011, 20:46 PM IST

Erics: Rescue teams in eastern
Turkey who have worked around the clock for the past week will
wind up the search for quake survivors by nightfall, Deputy
Prime Minister Besir Atalay announced on Saturday.

As the death toll rose yet again, a solemn Atalay said
operations in Ercis, the worst-hit city in the earthquake
stricken Van province would be called off because hope of
finding anyone else alive had run out.

Six more bodies had been recovered, he said, pushing the
toll to 582.

In all, 231 survivors had been rescued from scores of
collapsed buildings following last Sunday`s 7.2 magnitude
tremor. Over 2,600 people had been wounded in the disaster.

"Rescue teams are still working in the ruins of four
buildings in Ercis. Tonight this will stop," Atalay told
reporters in Van city.

The last person to be found alive was a 12-year-old boy
named Ferhat Tokay who was brought out at dawn on Friday after
spending 108 hours trapped under the ruins of a building in
Ercis, a town of 75,000.

"It is unlikely, barring some miracle, that anyone else
will be found alive in the rubble in such cold weather," a
Turkish doctor was quoted as saying on CNN-Turk television.
The focus today turned to clean-up efforts and the plight
of survivors.

The US was the latest country to offer help, with the
Pentagon saying yesterday that US military aircraft were to
begin delivering relief supplies from US military bases in
Europe.

Atalay thanked the international community "for its
concern" for the Turkish quake victims, and said electricity,
gas, running water and telecommunications networks had been
re-established throughout the region.

City Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, meanwhile,
promised that new housing would be ready in Van by September
2012 for people left homeless by the quake, as fresh rain and
snow in the province added to their misery.

Many camped out in tents or make-shift shelters, fearing
more building collapses in aftershocks. Some camps turned into
mudbaths.

A group of comedians from Istanbul tried to lighten the
mood in Ercis, bringing a cake to three-year-old Mouhammed
Kaya to celebrate his birthday with his family, huddled inside
a chilly tent.

Today, teams started clearing rubble in Ercis, hoping to
recover bodies trapped under the masses of iron and concrete,
CNN-Turk and NTV reported.

Since yesterday, Turkish soldiers are accompanying trucks
carrying supplies to the region after angry survivors looted
several Turkish Red Crescent trucks, amid complaints that aid
was not arriving fast enough.

The Islamist-rooted government of President Abdullah Gul,
meanwhile, called off celebrations, including the traditional
military parade, due to take place on Saturday for the 88th
anniversary of the Turkish republic, founded on October 29,
1923.

Secular groups charged it with using the quake as a
pretext to ignore the secular roots of modern Turkey, with an
editorial in the Vatan newspaper saying: "Why don`t you cancel
the republic while you`re at it, too!"

Turkey has accepted help from dozens of countries,
including Israel and Armenia, both states with which it has
frosty relations.

With the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival of sacrifice due in
early November, the Turkish Red Crescent would distribute the
meat of 500 cattle in the region, Anatolia news agency
reported.

PTI