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Ankara Accepts International Aid As Quake Crisis Grows


WATCH: Dramatic footage from Ercis, Turkey, shows rescue workers freeing a two-week-old baby girl from the remains of a collapsed apartment building nearly 48 hours after the quake struck. (AP video)

ISTANBUL -- The Turkish government has agreed to accept offers of international aid to help it cope with the aftermath of the devastating October 23 earthquake in the southeast of the country.
In Ankara, a Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that Turkey had requested prefabricated housing and tents from more than 30 countries, including Israel, with whom it has been in a diplomatic crisis.
"We informed all countries who offered help, including Israel, of a request on specific items for postemergency material, such as prefabricated houses, containers, and tents," the official told Reuters.
Ankara's decision to accept aid is a reversal of its stance of the last two days, during which it refused all offers of help from foreign governments except Iran and Azerbaijan, which border the quake-stricken region.
A statement issued by the Israeli government said Defense Minister Ehud Barak had "instructed the defense establishment to fly special aid to Turkey following the earthquake and after receiving a request from the Turkish authorities."
In the devastation zone, survivors began a third freezing night as rescue workers raced against time to find people still trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Occasionally, their frantic efforts have been rewarded. A two-week old baby, Arza Karaduman, was rescued from the rubble of her home, along with her mother and grandmother, after being buried for nearly two days. Elsewhere, early hours onOctober 26, an 18-year-old boy was pulled out from a collapsed building in Ercis, the town hardest hit by the quake.
Frustrations
But along with jubilation of these rescues, there is frustration, as a relative of tiny Arza told Reuters: "We have been waiting for almost 48 hours. She was rescued after almost 48 hours. I hope my mother and aunt will also be rescued."
The epicenter of the 7.2. magnitude earthquake was the city of Van. Turkish authorities say more than 2,000 rescue teams are operating in the region, where the weather forecast predicts the arrival of the first winter snows in coming days.
Tent cities and field hospitals have been set up in Van and surrounding towns, but there is concern for people in outlying villages. Most of the structures in those villages are made of clay and mud, and offered little protection from the quake and powerful aftershocks.
Those villages that have been reached have been devastated. Many survivors are fearful, and frustrated, like Mehmet Belin, a survivor who spoke with Reuters.
"We need tents. We have not received aid for two or three days now. Aid material is being delivered to rich people. Rich people obtain aid and poor ones are staying outside," Belin said.
"It is a sin because aid material is coming to us, but rich people benefit from it. Nothing is left for us. Look, a village with a population of a 1,000 is now left [to stay outside]. They just gave us 20 tents."
Tents, prefabricated homes, and containers for shelter should begin arriving later on October 25 in the first shipments of foreign aid. But Ankara is already being criticized for waiting 48 hours before agreeing to accept offers of help.
Parallels have been drawn to the devastating 1999 quake that struck near Istanbul, killing nearly 20,000. The then coalition government initially rejected many offers of international help, until the magnitude of disaster became overwhelming and they reversed the decision.
Observers say the delay probably cost many lives.
with agency reports
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