|More than 600 people have died and thousands have been displaced by two quakes in Turkey’s southeast [Reuters]|
The death toll from last week’s earthquake in southeast Turkey has risen to 40, as rescue workers concluded efforts to find survivors in the rubble.
With no hope of finding any more people alive, search and rescue operations at the Bayram Hotel were declared finished on Sunday and earth-moving machines began to clear the debris, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Search efforts at a second hotel, the low-budget Aslan Hotel, ended two days ago.
The 5.7-magnitude quake struck the city of Van on Wednesday, toppling the two hotels. The buildings had apparently been weakened by the force of another earthquake two weeks earlier that killed nearly 600 people in the region.
The victims in the second quake include two journalists and a Japanese relief worker who had rushed to the region in the aftermath of the 7.2-magnitude quake that struck on October 23. Eight workers who were in Van to assemble temporary housing units for survivors were also killed.
Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless by the earthquakes in Van province, bordering Iran, and their plight has been worsened by freezing temperatures after the first heavy snowfall of winter.
The first earthquake destroyed at least 2,000 buildings, and with aftershocks continuing to rock the region, many people are refusing to return to their homes.
Angry with government
Riot police fired tear gas and used batons on Thursday to disperse protesters angry over insufficient relief efforts.
An estimated 300 demonstrators chanted for the resignation of the provincial governor in a rally close to the two city-centre hotels that collapsed during the quake.
They called on the governor to resign because he had told locals it was safe for them to return to the buildings.
“They died because they listened to the governor,” people in the crowd yelled.
Turkey said it was erecting thousands more tents and was opening up state-run hotels throughout the country to house some of the survivors until the spring.
The Turkish government has also notified countries offering help that it will accept tents and prefabricated homes.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, visited the quake zone on Saturday amid the rising anger.