Turkish effort turns to care of survivors

Amid fading hopes, full-scale relief effort begins for quake victims

August 23, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- With hope of finding survivors of Turkey's devastating earthquake all but gone, the Turkish authorities are turning their attention to caring for those who have survived.

A full-scale relief effort in the area hit by the earthquake is finally beginning after days of confusion. Turkish and foreign volunteers have been joined by soldiers and police, and heavy equipment has been moved to almost every town stricken by the quake.

Divers scoured the Sea of Marmara yesterday for the first time since the quake and reported that they had found more than 150 bodies. Most of the victims had apparently lived in homes facing the sea, which lies at the center of the earthquake zone.

Relief officials said more than 12,000 bodies have been recovered, and a United Nations relief official has estimated that the final death toll could reach 40,000. More than 33,000 people were injured in the quake and at least 200,000 are homeless. Only two survivors were found beneath the rubble yesterday.

Soldiers were visible on the streets of many devastated towns, collecting refuse, keeping spectators away from dangerous sites, spraying disinfectants and spreading lime powder along gutters. Military trucks and jeeps moved through streets alongside power shovels, bulldozers and other heavy equipment sent by nearby cities and private companies.

Minister of Housing Koray Aydin estimated that 60,000 buildings had been destroyed or seriously damaged in the quake. He said that within a few days, he would begin moving many of the homeless out of the fields and tents where they are now living. Some are to be given prefabricated huts, and others will have rooms in unused hotels.

In another step, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit fired the appointed governors of Yalova, Kocaeli and Sakarya, three of the hardest-hit provinces. He said they had proved unable to meet the challenges posed by last week's disaster, and he replaced them temporarily with members of his Cabinet.

By one count, 42 countries and 38 international organizations have sent aid to Turkey since Tuesday. More than 3,000 U.S. sailors and Marines aboard three ships laden with medical supplies were expected to arrive early today.

The World Bank pledged $200 million for emergency housing construction. Deputy Prime Minister Recep Onal said the Turkish government was considering issuing special "earthquake bonds" to raise more money.

Rescuers found just two survivors yesterday. One was a 57-year-old woman who was pulled from the debris of her home in Golcuk. Another woman, 52, was pulled from the rubble of her home, southwest of Golcuk, by Israeli, Turkish and Bulgarian rescue teams, the Israeli army said. Some believe that the women may be the last to be found alive.

Acknowledging that few if any victims remain alive beneath the rubble, rescue workers from Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan and Britain began packing for their return home.

"The reason we came here was to save people," said Edward Pearce, who headed one of the British teams. "That has ended."

Pub Date: 8/23/99

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