Turk quake victims plead for tents as cold descends

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Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of the earthquake in Ercis, Turkey on October 27, 2011

Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of the earthquake in Ercis, Turkey on October 27, 2011

Survivors of eastern Turkey's earthquake pleaded for more tents on Thursday, fearing death from cold after a tremor that killed at least 523 and left thousands sleeping in the open.

Some blamed the ruling AK party for a slow response and accused officials of handing aid to supporters, after standing in long queues only to be told there were no tents left. Others said profiteers were hoarding tents and reselling them.

"Everyone is getting sick and wet. We have been waiting in line for four days like this and still nothing. It gets to our turn and they say they have run out," said Fetih Zengin, 38, an estate agent whose house was badly damaged in Ercis, a town of 100,000 that was hardest hit by Sunday's 7.2 magnitude quake.

"We slept under a piece of plastic erected on some wood boards we found. We have 10 children in our family, they are getting sick. Everyone needs a tent, snow is coming. It's a disaster."

Ergun Ozmen, 37, was carrying loaves of bread after queuing for food.

"People are taking 10 tents and selling them. It's a disgrace. I slept in the municipal park all night in the rain. My shoes are filled with water. I only registered to get a tent this morning as I have been busy burying the dead," he said.

The death toll rose to 523, with 1,650 injured in the biggest quake in more than a decade in Turkey. The Disaster and Emergency Administration said 185 people had been rescued alive from collapsed buildings since the quake.

Searches for survivors went on at some sites but at others rescuers stopped work. The bodies of a mother and her baby were pulled out from one building during the night, witnesses said. Several countries have answered Turkey's call for help to supply tents, prefabricated housing and containers.

Turkish media said prefabricated homes sent by Israel, despite poor relations between the two countries, were being transported to Van on Thursday.

In central Ercis, long lines of people queued for tents in mud and cold rain. Snow fell overnight in the mountains and many said they feared the onslaught of winter. Occasional scuffles broke out.

Exhausted relatives clung to the hope that loved ones would be found, keeping vigil at the site of their destroyed homes as searches went on for any sign of life.

Overnight, groups of shell-shocked people roamed aimlessly, with no home to go to, huddling around fires as temperatures dropped to freezing. Others congregated in relief camps.

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