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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Earthquake Kills 45 in Rural Turkey

SULTANDAGI, Turkey -- Hundreds of people spent the night in tents or vehicles despite the subfreezing temperatures, too scared to sleep indoors after an earthquake knocked down buildings, killing at least 45 people in a rural swath of central Turkey.

Sunday's magnitude-6 quake injured at least 170 people and toppled 150 buildings, most of them old brick and mud houses, shoddily built shops or state-owned buildings. Four mosques also collapsed, private NTV reported.

Officials said Monday they had called off rescue efforts among the rubble of collapsed buildings.

"There are no more bodies and no survivors, so the rescue efforts have been called off," a military official in the region said on condition of anonymity.

Sunday's quake, felt in cities up to 300 kilometers north and west of the epicenter, hit a nation where memories of people trapped in homes are still vivid after two massive quakes that killed 18,000 people in the northwest of the country in 1999. Badly constructed buildings were blamed for the large number of deaths in those quakes and some constructors have since been put on trial.

At least 26 people were injured when they threw themselves out of windows and balconies fearing they would be trapped inside collapsed buildings. At one hospital, doctors rushed patients to an outdoor garden as a safety precaution.

With dozens of aftershocks jolting the region, officials urged residents to stay away from damaged buildings.

Many people in the epicenter, Sultandagi, a small town where many people work in the government-controlled poppy industry, preferred to brave the cold and sleep outdoors.

"It's going to be a cold night, but we have no other choice," said Ali Suzen, 22, laying plastic sheeting and blankets on the ground of a tent he would share with parents and two neighbors. "It's too dangerous to go back," he said of his house, where walls were cracked.

Troops raced to pitch 1,000 canvas tents at Sultandagi's market place. Aid workers set up a mobile kitchen to dish out food for the homeless and those not wanting to return home.

The government -- accused of reacting too slowly to natural disasters -- said it immediately sent 3,000 blankets and 1,000 tents to the region.

People in a main street lined with shops burned large truck tires to keep warm in temperatures that dropped to minus 5 degrees Celsius. Many spent the night in their cars, parked away from buildings.

"I'm not worried about tonight," said Nese Sener, 35, who was sharing a large, gas-heated tent with 12 other people. "It's starting a new day without a home tomorrow that I am concerned about."

Sultandagi, at the foot of the Sultan mountains, is some 200 kilometers south of the capital, Ankara. In the summer, the area's dusty plains are carpeted by red poppies used to produce morphine derivatives used as painkillers.

Until the 1970s, the poppies in that area were widely used to produce opium and heroin. But in 1971, the government halted poppy-growing under pressure from the United States. Poppy cultivation resumed in 1974 under government control. The poppies are being processed for pharmaceutical use in a state factory in Bolvadin, where one person died during the quake.