Turkish Quake Death Toll Rises to 176

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Officials on Monday let schools out early for the summer in the Kurdish region where last week's earthquake collapsed a dormitory killing 83 children.

The officials also raised the overall death toll to 176 in the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck southeastern Turkey (search) last Thursday. Parents were reluctant to send their children back to school after the quake leveled the boarding school in the town of Celtiksuyu, trapping children under the rubble and setting off round-the-clock rescue efforts.

The rescuers saved 115 children, most just after the tragedy at the school for the children of poor Kurdish farmers from surrounding villages that have no schools.

The epicenter was just outside the nearby city of Bingol, 430 miles east of Ankara (search).

Bingol Gov. Huseyin Avni Cos said students in the region could start their summer vacation a month early, except those in the last year of junior high and high school who face exams in June.

Those students will be taught in tents, he said.

The quake collapsed 300 buildings and damaged more than 5,000, said Cos, who announced the new toll. Officials said the toll had increased because some families informed authorities of deaths only recently.

He said 7,000 tents had been handed out to those made homeless and another 2,600 were being distributed Monday.

Meanwhile, the Bingol Bar Association appealed to prosecutors to open an investigation against city officials for failing to prevent the collapse of the school.

Officials admit the building was made with shoddy material, and critics say it was never inspected.

Cabinet spokesman Cemil Cicek said Monday the government planned to stiffen laws for construction contracts and impose harsher punishments for building code violations.

Much of Turkey lies atop the North Anatolian fault and quakes are frequent.