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Turkish quake victims brave cold

EBER, Turkey -- Villagers left homeless by a powerful earthquake in Turkey, which killed 45 people and injured 170, have spent a freezing night sleeping in the open.

Attempts to find further survivors of the quake, which devastated hundred of homes, have now been called off.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, visiting the scene, said he hoped the death toll would not rise further but warned that a second quake could follow.

Local seismologists measured the magnitude at 6.0, while the U.S. Geological Survey said it registered 6.2.

The earthquake happened at 9:15 a.m. local time (0815 GMT) on Sunday and was centered in Bolvadin, in the province of Afyon, some 250 km (155 miles) southwest of Turkey's capital, Ankara.

Gallery: Turkey earthquake damage 

Seventy-seven buildings collapsed in the town of Sultandagi and the effects were felt as far away as the capital.

In Eber, a village of about 1,000 people, 15 people were crushed to death in houses made of sun-dried mud bricks and wood. There were 30 aftershocks.

As Monday morning dawned, hundreds of homeless huddled round fires and under blankets and plastic after a freezing night.

Despite aid efforts -- the government sent 3,000 blankets and 1,000 tents -- only a handful of prefabricated homes had been erected by Monday morning..

"What we need most is a warm place," a woman crouching underneath plastic sheeting with about 10 others on the open back of a truck told Reuters.

As firefighters in Eber worked into the night to put out blazes still smouldering beneath the rubble, men stood round fires to keep warm, while women, children and the elderly packed into cars covered with blankets.

"There's no hot food and there's no water. All we've got to eat is bread," Rehan, a 17-year-old girl, told the news agency.

Civil defence teams with sniffer dogs called off their efforts late on Sunday, nearly 12 hours after the quake struck.

"We've determined there are no survivors under the rubble. Therefore search-and-rescue efforts have finished," Afyon Deputy Governor Halil Ibrahim Turkoglu told the state-run Anatolian news agency.

Authorities, under fire for responding too slowly to two major earthquakes in 1999, said they had rushed mobile hospitals, prefabricated homes, food and blankets to the region and set up makeshift, open-air first aid posts to treat the injured.

Lethal earthquakes are common in Turkey, which lies on the North Anatolian fault, and the nation constantly fears another devastating earthquake.

PM Ecevit briefly toured the quake-battered region on Sunday, urging people to stay outside their damaged homes for safety reasons.

"The state is working with all its strength to minimise the pain and sorrow of our citizens," he said.

There is still simmering resentment at the slow response of Ecevit's coalition government to two huge earthquakes in northwest Turkey in 1999 which killed some 18,000 people.

Prefabricated housing meant as temporary accommodation to those left homeless that year is still in use in some parts of the northwest.

The rural region has around one million people, many living on farms and in small houses.


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