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Turkey Marks 2nd Anniversary of Devastating Quake - 2001-08-17

Thousands in Turkey held vigils and gathered around the graves of their loved ones Friday. They marked the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake, which ripped through northwest Turkey killing over 20-thousand people.

It has been two years since the tremor measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale tore through seven western Turkish provinces. But thousands of victims still remain in temporary shelter despite government pledges to provide permanent homes.

At least 12,000 homes have been erected for homeless survivors. Yet two thirds of the new owners, citing numerous deficiencies, have opted to remain in prefabricated shelters.

Anger was palpable among many victims Friday as they gathered in Adapazari province, which was all but destroyed during the earthquake. Many shouted anti-government slogans. Others simply wept around the graves of their loved ones.

Scores of victims are still missing, and their relatives remain hopeful that they are still alive. What is more likely, acknowledge Turkish officials, is that the missing are among hundreds of victims buried without being identified in mass graves.

The head of an Istanbul-based seismological institute says the majority of Turks remain unprepared for another major earthquake, which some experts warn may strike northwest Turkey yet again.

The use of shoddy construction materials by disreputable contractors has largely been blamed for the high death toll in the August 17 earthquake. Turkey's parliament has since passed new legislation stiffening penalties for contractors who build unsafe homes.