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Archive for Friday, February 6, 2004

Death toll in Turkey building collapse reaches 43

February 6, 2004

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— Rescue workers pulled 16 more bodies from the rubble of a collapsed apartment building on Thursday -- including a pregnant woman and a 2-year-old girl -- raising the death toll to 43.

There was little hope of finding more survivors four days after the disaster, though more than 60 people were believed trapped inside. As rescue workers used drills to dig tunnels into the debris, the concrete quickly crumbled to dust.

Most bodies were discovered squeezed between the ceiling and floor of the room in which the victims had been when the building collapsed accordian-like.

In one room, the bodies of two boys were found hugging each other along with a young woman who had placed her head on the chest of an elderly woman, said Murat Salim Seren, a relief worker.

"They were in fear and panic," he said. The victims' identities were not known but they were thought to be from the same family.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to punish those responsible for the tragedy at the building, which was only five years old and considered upscale in Konya. Grieving relatives lashed out at the contractors who built it.

"This incident cannot be left without an answer. There should be a price for it, and there will be," the prime minister said after inspecting the site.

A team of inspectors took samples from the crumbled building after the government launched an investigation. One inspector, Osman Nuri Dulgerler, said Thursday that lack of controls during the construction and poor materials were seen as initial reasons of the collapse.

Shoddy construction has been blamed for many of the deaths in the 1999 quakes in western Turkey that killed more than 18,000 people and experts say little has been done to address the problem of poor construction in the country.

Rescuers have found 31 survivors from Monday's collapse -- the last one Tuesday evening. Still, dozens of people waited Thursday near the site, hoping for a miracle survivor.

Some 140 people lived in the building's 37 apartments, officials said.

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