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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Turkish Premier Vows Tighter Building Codes




ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Turkey's prime minister has promised stricter building rules to prevent the same sort of shoddy construction that is blamed for thousands of deaths from last week's massive earthquake.


Meanwhile, eight days after the powerful 7.4-magnitude temblor reduced a wide swath of western Turkey to rubble, searchers said they still held out hope f though slim f that more people could be found alive.


In Cinarcik, a suburb of the resort town of Yalova, rescuers rushed to the site of a collapsed building after residents reported hearing sounds from under the crushed concrete.


Lieutenant Colonel Numan Arslanyer, head of the crisis center in Yalova, said four brothers were believed buried in the building and that Turkish, Bulgarian and German rescuers were working intensively Wednesday to try to dig them out.


"We have not lost hope to find people alive, and we will not lose hope," he said. The last live rescue was Monday, when a 4-year-old boy was saved.


In the capital, Ankara, a new tremor 320 kilometers away sent residents running into the streets in panic Tuesday night. The 4.7-magnitude quake was centered near Haymana, 60 kilometers south of Ankara. A 4.2-magnitude aftershock followed. Haymana residents spent the night in parks and their cars, fearing more tremors.


Even so long after the quake, counting the dead was proving a difficult task. The government on Tuesday said the official death toll from the Aug. 17 quake rose to 17,997 as more bodies were uncovered, but early Wednesday revised that figure downward to 12,514, saying the confirmed number of deaths in Izmit was much less than previously announced.


An official at the government's crisis center in Ankara, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a mistake had been made while entering data from Izmit into a computer.


Two days of rain have deepened the misery of the estimated 200,000 people left homeless by the quake, many of whom have complained bitterly that the government has been slow in responding to the crisis. Turkey's leaders defended their actions.


"Of course the people have the right to be nervous, have the right to complain, but this is a natural disaster," Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.


Many of the buildings that collapsed like houses of cards in the quake were built with concrete that had been mixed with ordinary sea sand. Rescuers say they have even seen seashells in the crumbled concrete.


"Mistakes have been made in the past with regard to the unofficial control of constructions ? and we are determined as a government to take the necessary steps," said the prime minister, without elaborating.


The Anatolia news agency on Wednesday quoted one major building contractor as acknowledging he had used sea sand in his concrete, but saying he hadn't understood the dangers.


"I don't have a contractor's license. I am not a builder,'' the report quoted contractor Veli Gocer as saying. He said nearly one-sixth of the 3,000 apartment units he built f and for which he lured buyers with slogans like "For every budget!'' f had collapsed in the quake.


Veli spoke to Anatolia from in hiding, but told the news agency he would surrender to police when passions calmed.