Buried Alive

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The country remains ill equipped to cope with the shocks. After its worst tremor since a quake took 30,000 lives in 1939, terror and grief soon gave way to rage and recrimination. Survivors blamed government authorities and the 450,000-strong army for worsening the devastation by failing to provide effective rescue workers and equipment. When help did arrive in shattered communities, officials could not adequately deploy it. Most services, from water and power to health and sanitation, were a shambles, raising the threat of disease outbreaks.

Public outrage quickly focused on the substandard apartment blocks that boosted the quake's toll. Most of the dead were crushed as they slept when their cheap, hastily built housing crumpled. Newspapers pointed at greedy contractors who used shoddy materials, slipshod methods and the help of corrupt officials to bypass building codes and ignore quake-proofing requirements. Block after block of flimsy flats, thrown up to accommodate rural migrants to the cities, collapsed while solid buildings withstood the temblor with barely a crack. In Yalova, where scores of apartment houses virtually disintegrated, citizens nearly lynched the local builder and set his car on fire. "The contractors who put up these buildings have committed mass murder," said Interior Minister Saadettin Tantan on Thursday as officials promised harsh punishment

That will bring no consolation to the families of the dead. Nor will survivors find it easy to remake their lives amid the country's troubled economy and embattled government. Yet hardest of all for the traumatized people of Turkey may be regaining the simplest of faiths: trust in the stability of the ground beneath their feet.

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