Anger grows as death toll tops 16,000

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ADIYAMAN, Turkey — As temperatures dropped, anger was growing in Turkey over the government’s response to two massive earthquakes earlier this week that killed more than 19,000 people.

With their homes destroyed, thousands spent a frigid Wednesday night in the rubble on the streets of Adiyaman, huddled around small fires with little shelter. Electricity and water were non-existent in the southern city.

Fearing another quake, some chose to stay outdoors, avoiding buildings that seemed intact and choosing instead to brave the freezing temperatures.

Some wept silently, while others cried out their misery as the earthquakes claimed more victims. A man broke into an aid organization center and loudly demanded officials rescue his family.

A woman cries over 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 gone too.»

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

“No one was here to help us, I have complaints about all the authorities here,” Nurse Guler said Wednesday, adding that she had a son in hospital and another still trapped under rubble.

«There are no teams here, everyone is waiting for rescue teams,» he said.

Guler added that people had supported Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who served as Turkey’s prime minister or president for the past 20 years, «but now we don’t see him on our side.»

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

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

But the scale of the disaster appeared to overwhelm authorities.

The first of Monday’s devastating earthquakes occurred in the early hours and registered a magnitude of 7.8. It rated as «major» on the official magnitude scale. Hours later, a second quake, registering at a magnitude of 7.6, struck nearby.

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