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Earthquake Rescue Operations End in Turkey

Rescue workers in Turkey have abandoned their search for survivors of a powerful earthquake. The temblor killed more than 160 people and injured more than 500 others in the southeastern province of Bingol.

The governor of Bingol, Huseyin Cos, said the rescue operations had ceased because there were no further signs of life in the ruins of scores of collapsed and damaged buildings in and around Bingol town.

Mr. Cos made the announcement at the pulverized remains of a boarding school dormitory, where at least 84 school children died. Two more bodies were pulled out of the wreckage overnight.

Many of the victims were the sons and daughters of Kurdish farmers living in villages where there are no schools. Harsh winter conditions forced them to send their children as boarders to the state-run school at Bingol, which was flattened during the magnitude 6.4 quake.

The high death toll is being widely blamed on the use of shoddy construction with flimsy materials by so-called fly-by-night contractors and corrupt government officials who turned a blind eye.

Bingol Governor Cos has come under sharp attack over his handling of a riot that erupted Friday, when police clashed with Kurds angry over the slow distribution of tents, food and water. Two demonstrators were reported badly wounded and scores arrested in the violence, which led to the dismissal of Bingol's police chief the same day.

Mr. Cos has promised a full investigation into allegations that the school dormitory and other buildings damaged during the quake had been poorly built, and that local officials had colluded in the faulty construction.

Turkey has suffered several major earthquakes over the past decade, and poor construction has been blamed by experts for significant numbers of deaths, particularly for many of the more than 18,000 deaths from two massive quakes in western Turkey in 1999.