Anger grows as death toll passes 16,000

ADIYAMAN, Turkey — As the temperatures plunged, anger grew in Turkey over the government’s response to two massive earthquakes earlier this week which have claimed the lives of over 19,000 people.

With their homes destroyed, thousands spent a freezing Wednesday night amid the debris in streets of Adiyaman, huddled around small fires and with little shelter. Electricity and water were nonexistent in the southern city.

Fearful of another earthquake, some chose to stay out in the open, avoiding buildings that appeared intact and choosing instead to brave the sub-zero temperatures.

Some grieved silently, while others shouted their misery as the quakes claimed more victims. One man burst into an aid organization center and demanded loudly that officials to rescue his family.

A woman grieves next to the bodies of earthquake victims in Hatay, Turkey. Burak Kara / Getty Images

Perihan Sayar, 60, said she had lost her 10-year-old granddaughter Ulku, as well as her home.

“I lived alone, in a one room house,” she said. “Now my house is also gone.” 

Others said they were furious at what they said was a slow response from the government, and said that rescue teams had arrived in the city with the wrong equipment to dig through the rubble. NBC News could not independently confirm this assertion.

“Nobody was here to help us, I have complaints about all the authorities here,” said Nursen Guler on Wednesday, adding that she had one son in the hospital and another who was still trapped under rubble.

“There are no teams here, everyone is waiting for rescue teams,” she said.  

Guler added that people had supported Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has served as either Turkey’s prime minister or its president for the past 20 years, “but now we don’t see him by our side.” 

The government’s response was also questioned by people in several other cities where residents have also been forced to sleep in the open, in tents or in temporary accommodation.

“Where is the state? Where have they been for two days? We are begging them. Let us do it, we can get them out,” Sabiha Alinak told Reuters amid the rubble in the city of Malatya on Wednesday.

But the sheer scale of the disaster appeared to overwhelm authorities.

The first of Monday’s devastating quakes struck in the early hours and registered at magnitude 7.8. It qualified as “major” on the official magnitude scale. Hours later, a second quake, registering at 7.6-magnitude, struck nearby.

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