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Turkey Pleads for Medical Aid As Earthquake Death Toll Rises

By R. Jeffrey Smith
THE WASHINGTON POST -- KARAMURSEL, Turkey

Regional officials pleaded Tuesday for medical assistance and more body bags as they confronted growing illness among the tens of thousands rendered homeless by last week’s earthquake. The government’s official death toll rose to nearly 18,000.

Two days of cool evening temperatures and rain in the earthquake zone in northwestern Turkey left muddy streets and wet ground for rescue workers and residents. Although the government has started to build dozens of tent cities, most remain uncompleted and unoccupied, including one being constructed by army troops on the outskirts of this resort town at the edge of the Sea of Marmara.

More than 150 residents died here in collapsed, and -- as in many towns and villages -- survivors flocked to city hall Tuesday to read lists of their names posted on windows. But the atmosphere was lightened slightly when electricity and limited water service were restored for the first time since the quake, paralleling a speedy restoration of these services in the heavily-damaged cities of Golcuk and Yalova.

The bulldozing of damaged or collapsed buildings has accelerated in many cities, with workers leaving only a thin layer of white concrete dust behind where piles of rubble, containing the household possessions of thousands of people, stood until a few days ago. The process of cleaning up has now supplanted virtually all efforts to find survivors, as hopes for finding any more have dwindled. Rescue teams from Germany, France and Italy joined others in leaving the country with the government’s encouragement.

“International search and rescue operations are over today,” said Sergio Piazzi of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, which had helped coordinate the arrival of more than 3,000 foreign rescuers from more than two dozen teams in the first few days after the quake. The U.N. office in Istanbul posted a long list of badly needed items, including tents, generators, portable toilets, and surgery equipment.