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Crews Hunt For Greek Quake Victims

September 14, 1999

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Crews wearing surgical masks hunted Tuesday for the last victims of a powerful earthquake that killed 129 people.

Six others were hospitalized in serious condition after the Sept. 7 quake, which flattened parts of working class and immigrant districts north of central Athens.

With 11 people missing and presumed dead, the death toll is expected to climb to 140.

There has been little hope left of finding survivors, and crews were mainly working to collect bodies before bulldozers and other heavy equipment move in to clear the wreckage from the deadliest quake to hit Greece in more than 40 years.

With more than 6,500 damaged homes slated for demolition, as many as 100,000 people could need shelter. The government set a two-month deadline to move the homeless from tent cities to more durable housing. But that may not be soon enough to beat the rainy and raw weather common during the fall.

Greece’s defense minister, Akis Tsochadzopoulos, said troops will help erect 5,000 prefabricated homes. He also announced plans to scale back on the number of military maneuvers this year, and use the saved funds to buy some of the homes.

The decision apparently came after a warming of relations between Greece and traditional rival Turkey, which was rocked by a 7.3 magnitude quake on Aug. 17.

The two countries, recently engaged in a massive multibillion dollar arms buildup, rushed to help each other in the quakes’ aftermath.

Greek prosecutors moved ahead with a flurry of subpoenas in its investigation of whether builders used shortcuts to bypass anti-quake regulations. The preliminary investigation has focused on a five-story kitchen-products factory that collapsed in the magnitude 5.9 quake and left more than 20 dead.

Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou estimated the quake damage to reach at least $655 million.

The Onassis foundation, a charitable trust founded by the late Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, pledged $955,000 to the quake victims.

The quake was the deadliest in Greece since 1953, when 476 people died on the Ionian Sea island of Cephalonia.

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