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Turkey PM attacks shoddy builders

Turkey's prime minister has accused shoddy construction firms of murder after so many buildings collapsed in the country's deadly earthquake.

Three days after the disaster in eastern Turkey, two teachers and a university student were rescued from ruined buildings, but searchers said hopes of finding anyone else alive were diminishing. Excavators began clearing debris from some collapsed buildings in Ercis after searchers removed bodies and determined there were no other survivors.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had not learned enough from past earthquakes. The 7.2 tremor on Sunday killed at least 460 people.

"When we look at the wreckage, we see how the material used is of bad quality," Mr Erdogan said. "We see that people pay the price for concrete that virtually turned to sand, or for weakened concrete blocks on the ground floors. Municipalities, constructors and supervisors should now see that their negligence amounts to murder."

He said: "Despite all previous disasters, we see that the appeals were not heeded."

Gerald Rockenshaub, disaster response manager at the World Health Organisation, said the first 48 to 72 hours were crucial for rescues and the chances of finding survivors decreased significantly after that. People can survive without food for a week or so, but having access to water is critical, especially for the elderly and infants, he said.

Meanwhile health officials said they had detected an increase in diarrhoea cases, especially among children, and urged survivors to drink bottled water.

With thousands left homeless or too afraid to return to damaged houses, Turkey said it would accept international aid offers, even from Israel, with which it has had strained relations. The country said it would need prefabricated homes to house survivors during the winter. Israel offered assistance despite a rift between the two countries over last year's Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists.

Some 2,000 buildings collapsed and some 1,350 people were injured. The fact that the quake hit in daytime, when many people were out of their homes, averted an even worse disaster. Some 800 pupils at a school in Ercis - that crumbled, leaving only its near-intact roof flat on the ground - were probably saved because the quake hit on a Sunday.

Close to 500 aftershocks have rattled the area.

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