Middle East

Turkey to End Effort to Find Quake Survivors

People rescue two women trapped under debris in Van  eastsern Turkey after a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, collapsing about 45 buildings in Van province, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011 according to the deputy Turkish prime minister. Only one death was immediately confirmed, but scientists estimated that up to 1,000 people could have been killed. The worst damage was caused to the town of Ercis, in the mountainous eastern province of Van, close to the Iranian border. ( AP Photo/Ali Ihsan Ozturk, Anatolia) TURKEY OUT

People rescue two women trapped under debris in Van eastsern Turkey after a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, collapsing about 45 buildings in Van province, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011 according to the deputy Turkish prime minister. Only one death was immediately confirmed, but scientists estimated that up to 1,000 people could have been killed. The worst damage was caused to the town of Ercis, in the mountainous eastern province of Van, close to the Iranian border. ( AP Photo/Ali Ihsan Ozturk, Anatolia) TURKEY OUT  (AP2011)

ISTANBUL -- Turkey's government said Saturday it would call off efforts to find survivors in the wreckage of last weekend's powerful earthquake by the end of the day, as the official death toll from the 7.2 magnitude tremor rose to 582.

The decision came just a day after a 13-year-old boy was pulled alive from the rubble and the government said it would put a new urban redevelopment law to Parliament by the end of the year, aimed at razing substandard buildings that might collapse in future earthquakes.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said that to date 455 people had died in Ercis alone, a town of 80,000 people on the northern shore of Lake Van in eastern Turkey, according to the state Anadolu news agency. Sixty-one people died in the regional center of Van and 66 in villages, Atalay said. Eighty-four buildings collapsed in Ercis and six in Van, he said. More than 2,000 homes collapsed in the villages.

"Search and rescue efforts are under way in four buildings in Ercis, and efforts will be completed this evening," Ataly told reporters, according to Anadolu.

The last person to be found alive in the search was Serhat Tokay, a 13-year-old boy pulled from a collapsed apartment building in Ercis 108 hours after Sunday's tremor.

The boy said he had been able to hear rescuers from the first day but that they were unable to hear his cries until two or three layers of the building had been removed, Anadolu reported.
Atalay said a total of 231 people had been rescued since the quake.

While a crushing blow to the relatively small community of Ercis, the toll is at the low end of estimates made by seismologists when the quake first struck, likely because it occurred on a sunny Sunday afternoon, when many people were outdoors and children weren't in school buildings, several of which collapsed.

Turkey is familiar with how poorly constructed buildings can devastate populations. In 1999, a tremor with an epicenter about 62 miles east of Istanbul killed more than 17,000 people, with poor construction standards blamed for the high toll.

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