Turkey Quake Toll Passes 600

In Earthquakes & Tsunamis, Europe, News Headlines

Bulldozers have replaced sniffer dogs as search efforts wound down in quake-hit eastern Turkey and the death toll rose to over 600.

With temperatures dipping to below freezing the biggest problem now facing survivors in Van province was a lack of tents and heaters, media reports said.

Health officials in Ercis, which bore the brunt of the 7.2-magnitude quake, warned survivors against drinking tap water due to fears the supply had been contaminated with sewage, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Advertisement: Story continues below Many survivors were still camped out in tents or makeshift shelters, fearing further building collapses with rain and snow adding to their misery.

Some whose homes were damaged had tried to find new accommodation only to discover that unscrupulous landlords had hiked rents.

“People whose houses collapsed started to search for new houses but there has been a big increase in prices … this is not ethical,” Salih Ozbek, the head of Van Real Estate Agencies’ Association, told Anatolia.

City Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar has said new housing will be ready in Van city by September next year for people left homeless by the quake.

In the meantime, Turkey plans to provide temporary, pre-fabricated shelter units.

Two Israeli planes, carrying five prefabricated housing units landed in the eastern province of Erzurum early on Sunday, Israeli embassy official Nizar Amer told AFP. Israel earlier sent five others.

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

The United States is the latest country to offer help.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay thanked the international community “for its concern”.

More than 4150 people were injured in the quake that shook Van province near the Iranian border on October 23, the government’s emergency unit said in a statement on its website. The toll on Sunday rose to 601, it said.

Search and rescue work ended on Saturday in Van city centre, but emergency crews continued working at two locations in Ercis, officials said.

Some 231 people have been pulled out alive from the rubble.

The last person to be found alive was 12-year-old 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 earlier quoted as saying on CNN-Turk television.

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