Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited thousands of quake victims in eastern Turkey on Saturday, where two deadly quakes over the last two weeks have killed at least 640 people and left many homeless.
Erdoğan's first stop was the town of Erciş, where thousands of survivors of the from the october 7.2-magnitude quake that still live in tents, even as the snow has blanketed much of the region. Some 604 people were killed.
The Oct. 23 temblor killed 604 people destroyed at least 2,000 buildings in Erciş and in the city of Van, which was hit again by a magnitude-5.7 quake on Wednesday. About 1,400 aftershocks have rocked the region since the initial quake in October.
At least 36 other people were killed when two hotels tumbled in Van on Wednesday. Among the victims were a Japanese aid worker and two Turkish journalists, who had gone to the area after the initial temblor in October.
Rescue workers discovered the bodies of the reporters, Sebahattin Yılmaz and Cem Emir, from the Dogan news agency early Saturday in the rubble of the Bayram Hotel. The Japanese aid worker Atsushi Miyazaki was rescued alive from the wreckage of that hotel but died in a hospital Thursday.
Turkey's disaster management authority said Saturday that 30 people were pulled out alive from the rubble of the collapsed hotels in Van.
On Friday, Turkey notified countries offering help to deal with the new quake that it would accept tents and prefabricated homes to house survivors through the winter.
With even more people refusing to return to homes after the second quake, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said authorities were setting up thousands of more tents for the homeless. He said some of the quake survivors would be housed at state-run hotels around the country until the spring.
He urged citizens, meanwhile, to send heaters, blankets and food packages for the people of Van.