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Snow compounds Turkey quake woes; Deaths at 534

Quake survivor who says she's cold stands outside her tent on outskirts of town center of Ercis, Turkey Thursday
AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

ERCIS, Turkey - Rain and snow on Thursday compounded difficulties for thousands rendered homeless in the powerful earthquake that hit eastern Turkey, and the government said the death toll has gone up to 534.

The prime minister's center for crisis and emergency management said 2,300 people were injured and 185 were rescued from the rubble.

Meanwhile, a moderate earthquake, measuring 5.4 according to Turkey's Kandilli seismology center, hit the neighboring province of Hakkari on Thursday, sending people rushing out of buildings in fear and panic. No damage was reported but NTV television said some people were slightly injured while trying to escape through windows.

That temblor was centered 90 miles south of the epicenter of Sunday's devastating quake.

Turkish authorities delivered more tents after acknowledging initial problems in the distribution of aid for survivors of the 7.2-magnitude quake that shattered at least 2,200 buildings on Sunday.

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Foreign assistance also began arriving after Turkey said it would accept help to house survivors through the winter. Israel, which has a troubled political relationship with Turkey, sent emergency housing units, blankets and clothing. Germany also dispatched supplies, including tent heating units. Britain said it was dispatching 1,000 tents to shelter some 5,500 people. Russia and Ukraine also contributed.

Some media reports had said rescuers pulled out a 19-year-old alive from the rubble on Thursday, but Mustafa Ozden, the head of the team that brought out the young man, told The Associated Press that he was rescued on Tuesday.

Rain gave way to intermittent snow, deepening the hardship of thousands of people either rendered homeless in the powerful earthquake or too afraid to return indoors amid aftershocks that continued to rattle the area.

In the worst-hit city of Ercis, families who managed to obtain tents shared them with others. Some people spent a fourth night outdoors huddled under blankets in front of campfires, either waiting for news of the missing or keeping watch over damaged homes.

Sermin Yildirim, who was eight months pregnant, was with her twins and husband. They shared a tent with a family of four who were distant relatives. Her apartment in a three-story building was not damaged but the family was reluctant to return.

"It's getting colder, my kids are coughing. I don't know how long we will have to stay here," Yildirim said. "We were not able to get a tent. We are waiting to get our own."

The Red Crescent organization and several pro-Islamic groups set up kitchens and dished out soup or meals of rice and beans.

People were seen gathering pieces of wood to light campfires or stove-heaters.

Muhlise Bakan, 41, was not happy to share her tent with her husband's second wife, Hamide.

"I have four children, she has five," Bakan said. "We were sleeping in separate rooms at our house, and now we are sleeping side by side here."

However, she acknowledged the two women were now "closer" as they struggle together in hard times. Turkish law does not recognize second marriages, but still some men in the country's southeast marry more then one wife in religious ceremonies that are accepted among conservatives.

Health problems increased the hardship for some quake survivors.

"I am very sick, I need medicine," said Kevsel Astan, 40, who had a kidney transplant more than four years ago.

She said she was being treated at the state hospital until the quake struck. The damaged hospital has been evacuated and doctors are focusing on emergency cases.

Burke Cinar, a sociologist with a Turkish foundation, said the group was trying to get tents for the families of 15 children with leukemia in Ercis. She said about 100 leukemia patients live in quake-hit Van province.

Turkey's weather agency predicted intermittent snowfall for the next three days.

More than a dozen television stations organized a joint aid telethon, amassing just under 62 million Turkish Lira ($37 million) in aid for the region.

Searchers sifted through piles of debris, recovering more bodies. They included two dead teenage sisters and their parents who were holding hands, and a mother clutching her baby boy, according to media reports.

Two teachers and a university student were rescued from ruined buildings on Wednesday, but there were no signs of survivors elsewhere and excavators were clearing debris from some collapsed buildings. One of the teachers later died in hospital, NTV reported Thursday.