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Snow Falls on Turkey Quake Victims

November 24, 1999

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Relief workers scrambled today to find tents capable of withstanding the harsh winter for thousands of homeless survivors of Turkey’s latest quake as snow began to fall on their ramshackle, weather-beaten camps.

Tens of thousands of people were living in makeshift wood and plastic shelters, amid strong winds and freezing temperatures in Bolu province, and officials said as many as 25,000 tents were still needed.

After days of rain, snow began to fall onto the hilly region today, but it quickly turned to slush, the regional crisis center reported. Authorities dropped salt on the roads to prevent vehicles carrying relief aid from slipping, the Anatolia news agency reported.

People formed long lines outside the government’s crisis center for plastic sheeting to waterproof their tents.

Turkey’s National Security Council, comprised of generals and cabinet ministers, discussed ways of rushing tents and prefabricated homes to survivors of the Nov. 12 earthquake. The death toll rose to 749 today as officials accounted for more bodies.

The council ``stressed that people still sheltering in tents should rapidly be protected against winter conditions and given healthier shelters,″ it said in a statement. It did not say how that would be done.

The Turkish Red Crescent said it was having trouble getting winterized tents.

``There are lots of camping tents available, but what we are after are tents that keep in the heat, keep out the rain, and where a whole family can be sheltered comfortably,″ said Haluk Koc, spokesman for the government-affiliated organization.

``We have made calls to Pakistan, Ukraine and several European countries, but there is a shortage of winterized tents.″

In the town of Duzce, one of the worst hit areas, women and children ran in the rain and mud to get food aid. Men worked to waterproof their makeshift tents.

``I haven’t been able to sleep all night because, with the rain, my tent got soaked,″ said Ayse Arat, 72.

In the nearby city of Bolu, authorities have set up the foundations for three tent cities, but have not received the winter tents needed to house at least 10,000, said Mustafa Yildiz of the Bolu crisis center. In nearby Duzce, authorities said 15,000 tents were needed.

``We are distributing gas heaters and gas canisters for people to cook food. But what we need are tents,″ said Yildiz.

The government has promised to provide 32,000 prefabricated houses by Nov. 30 for victims of the on Aug. 17 quake, which killed 17,000 people. Officials said, though, that only 17,000 houses have been finished.

The provincial governor of Bolu, meanwhile, was under fire today for slapping a quake victim in public and having her detained for ``provoking″ the people.

Newspapers published pictures of Gov. Nusret Miroglu slapping Gulsen Ozer on the mouth after she accused him of playing down the extent of quake damage in the region.

Police took her into custody on Tuesday. The reports said she was questioned for two hours before being released.

A small group of quake homeless walked through the streets of Duzce today, calling for the governor’s resignation.

Update hourly