The dead lie in morgues and meat lockers and cold storage warehouses. They lie in hastily dug graves dusted white with lime, and in body bags laid out on the misting ice of a brand-new skating rink.
Four days after the worst earthquake in Turkey's history, more than 12,000 bodies have been recovered, and the frantic search for the living has given way to the macabre business of disposing of the dead.
Thousands more bodies surface daily as the heavy equipment digs through the debris. The worst-hit cities and towns are now scented with the sickly aroma of human decay, and figuring out what to do with all the bodies is commanding the urgent attention of Turkey's already overwhelmed local and national officials.
Today, six scattered survivors were pulled from the rubble, including a 95-year-old woman, a 10-year-old Israeli girl and a 9-year-old boy who was rescued by a Greek team after a 17-hour effort. The rescues more than 100 hours after the quake were dubbed "miracles" by the Turkish media, and it was unlikely there would be many more.
Foreign emergency response teams were winding up their effort. The Fairfax County Rescue Squad, which saved the lives of four people Thursday, planned to depart Monday. And the head of a British rescue team, Edward Pearson, was quoted by Turkey's Anatolia News Agency as saying: "The reason we came here was to save people. That has ended."
The authorities defended themselves against accusations that they had responded sluggishly to the quake, which may have killed 40,000 people. They insist they were hamstrung by broken-down communications and the magnitude of the disaster. Officials said the government and army had discussed declaring a state of emergency or martial law earlier in the week but rejected it. Increasingly, however, the ceaseless cascade of corpses has forced the authorities to improvise in some not very pleasant ways.
In Izmit, at the earthquake's epicenter, the city's Olympic-size skating rink was pressed into service as an overflow morgue. The idea seemed reasonable; the results were grim. With power supplies in the city flickering on and off, the rink resorted to a backup generator for power. As hundreds of corpses lay in their body bags, the ice grew soft and watery, and a thick pungent mist rose from it. Late in the week, officials began to divert fresh bodies to a cold storage warehouse, but dozens of bodies remain on the ice rink, some of them still unidentified.
"The power was off, the generator was too weak and the doors kept opening and closing because relatives wouldn't wait outside," said an exhausted Dr. Inci Sukes, 32.
Death on a grand scale is not Sukes's ordinary line of work. She is a general practitioner accustomed to treating colds, aches and pains, the occasional case of flu. But this week she was pressed into service by the city to oversee the skating rink.
"It was really hard for me," she said. "Usually I'm able to separate my private life and my public life. Even if you didn't know the victims it was just incredibly depressing. The relatives were calm and strong and controlled, though. Only a few of them cried.
"When I used to work in the emergency ward I saw some terrible cases -- people hurt in car crashes or burned in fires. And I never had nightmares about them. But this, I'm not sure about."
When it hit at 3:02 a.m. Tuesday (8:02 p.m. EDT Monday), the quake performed a brutal triage, sorting the lucky and the unlucky and leaving both wondering what hit them.
One of the unlucky was Neriman Berber, 28, a flaxen-haired mother of a girl, 7, and a boy, 3. This afternoon she lay weeping wordlessly in a run-down government hospital in Istanbul, heedless of visitors and her family and the striking view over the Sea of Marmara from her room.
Berber was scheduled for surgery in a couple of hours, and her mother doted on her, but doctors were not certain she would ever walk again.
Berber lived in a small village 100 miles east of Istanbul whose 500 homes were largely spared, save for a few cracks in the walls.
On Monday night she lay down to sleep on the floor, which seemed cooler than her bed in the stifling summer heat. Her house withstood the shock, but the family cupboard -- filled with a television, pots and dishes -- did not. It tipped and fell on Berber, breaking her spine.
"There was no one else hurt in the village," said Ayse Akim, Berber's mother. "Her husband was all right and so were the children. Only the minaret of the mosque fell over."
There were those who counted themselves as lucky, too. Ece Siklar was one of them.
An English teacher, Siklar, 24, was recently commissioned as a navy lieutenant. She was sent to the Turkish navy base at Golcuk on the Sea of Marmara to learn military basics -- how to wear her new uniform, how to salute, how to fire a gun.
During her training she was living near the base at her grandmother's apartment. When the quake struck, it hardly seemed real to Siklar.
"At first it was like a dream and I waited for my grandmother to come and tell me it was only a dream," she said. "There was all this loud noise and then a silence that was very long. Then I understood what had happened."
As she lay on a sofa bed, the wall had collapsed over Siklar, smashing her arms but tenting over her body.
After a while rescuers came, shone a light in, and Siklar yelled like crazy. A few hours later, they reached her and brought her to safety.
In a hospital in Istanbul, Siklar recounted her story solemnly, the memory of her narrow escape -- and the narrow space that enabled her survival -- still fresh and haunting.
"It was like a grave," she said.
In Sakarya, 90 miles southeast of Istanbul, Mustafa Aktar drove six hours today to reach the state hospital. He was on a grim mission: to see the photos of the dead taken just before they were hoisted into refrigerated trailers to await burial. He hoped to find a snapshot of his uncle, an out-of-town wheat trader who had spent the night in town.
But Aktar had no luck; his uncle was nowhere to be found, and the relatives of others who died asked to look at the same photos. To look over their shoulders is to catch a glimpse of many of the city's residents in their last moments of life. Most were in their bedrooms at home, and the positions of their bodies reflect an eerie calmness and air of security.
One 7-year-old boy dressed in pajamas, for example, is frozen in a sleeping position with his right arm stretched under his head. A 1-year-old in red, blue and yellow clown pajamas lies prone on her back, with only a few scratches. The most terrible picture is of a middle-aged man who has both arms raised to shield his face, as if he awoke just in time to see the ceiling fall.
The photos were taken by army troops standing in the parking lot, wearing white, disposable plastic suits and thick boots. After taking the photos, two soldiers lowered each body into white or yellow plastic bags and covered the torsos with chlorine powder shoveled from 100-pound bags. The zippers were closed and each of the bags was hoisted into one of five large, refrigerated trailer trucks, to make way for the new arrivals coming just behind.
The speed was meant to accommodate government pressure to fend off any outbreaks of disease, and it was officially approved this week by Muslim religious authorities. They ruled that those who died in crushed buildings should be treated as Sehit, or troops who died in a war, thus obviating the need to wash each corpse and wrap it in a white cotton shroud according to tradition.
"They do not need to be washed. They are already rotten," said Ahmet Denir, 30, a physician coordinating the makeshift morgue. "I fear that the number will rise a lot," he added.
But the task of body identification has not kept pace with the speedy burials. More than 50 unclaimed bodies were taken to the suburbs for burial on Thursday, and if the corpses in the trucks here are not claimed soon, they will face the same fate.
Army draftee Ur Bas was present when an uncle brought in five simple caskets bearing the bloated corpses of his mother Gomul, father Yusuf, 9-year-old niece Hatice, his aunt Saimeyamcas, and her son Ecevit.
The family died in its basement flat, in the apartment house where Yusuf worked as a doorman. With his face like stone, Ur helped shovel chlorine powder into the bottom of the caskets and put them back in the truck. He got leave to drive with the family to the town of Kirikkale, where they plan a simple ceremony.
When a security guard who works at the Sapanca city hall rode up on his bicycle this evening carrying a heavy bag of groceries, it was too much for Cemil Seremih to bear silently. So he reared back and struck the man on his face with a open hand, knocking him to the ground.
"There are people here that can't have the bread over there," Seremih shouted while pointing first to several dozen people camped in the small park nearby and then to a guarded food storehouse in back where dozens of loaves of bread were piled high in two large bins.
His action had a ripple effect on a crowd of homeless nearby, as if a political earthquake had just struck this city of 30,000 as it tries to recover from a seismic shock that cut its phone lines and left it without a steady supply of food and water. Other men and women started shouting at local and federal officials milling around the building.
"I've been following things for three days and you are in trouble," Sedat Simseh yelled at a school superintendent. "No one here gets the food that you get." The superintendent was stunned, and walked quickly as police stepped in to keep Simseh away. "Don't make a scene," one officer told him. "A foreign reporter is present."
The events of the past week -- the quake, the deaths, and the government's slow response -- have provoked many residents here to conclude not only that city leaders are unresponsive to their needs, but also that they are corrupt. Food donations meant for quake survivors are being hoarded and diverted to the powerful, they claim.
"Help is coming, but it is not reaching us," said Sabahit Sirin, 43, whose house was among the handful destroyed here. She now lives with her 11- and 18-year-old sons in the park. "We don't even have a tent," she said. "The drinking water is contaminated. They only gave us tomatoes. I wanted one blanket, and they have it, but wouldn't give it. Everybody knows that."
The city says it is stockpiling food for a tent city to be erected next week.
The angry citizens "fear about tomorrow," said city attorney Fuat Ari, 38. "They worry, `will the aid come?' ". But he said the city was doing its best to help residents and added that "I'm living in my car, too. The Turkish people have honor; they have sent aid from all over the country. These people are in sorrow right now, and they don't have any patience."
Aid for Turkish Quake Victims
People seeking information about relatives in Turkey may contact the Turkish Embassy at 202-612-6700. Callers should have their family's phone numbers and addresses in Turkey available. The embassy will fax the information to Turkish authorities trying to locate survivors of the earthquake. They have also set up a Web site at www.turkey.org. The site lists bank accounts that have been set up to send money to Turkey.
With so many people scrambling to send aid, Turkish Americans formed the Turkish Relief Association to coordinate donations. The toll-free number is 877-TURKEY9, or 877-887-5399. Those interested in helping quake victims may also send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following members of InterAction, a coalition of relief, development and assistance agencies, are collecting donations:
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Turkey Earthquake Relief Fund; 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Md. 20904. The toll-free number is 800-424-2372. The Web site is www.adra.org.
The American Jewish World Service, Turkish Earthquake Relief Fund; 989 Avenue of the Americas, 10th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018. The toll-free number is 800-889-7146. The Web site is www.ajws.org.
The American Red Cross International Response Fund; P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The toll-free number is 800-HELP-NOW, or in Spanish, 800-257-7575. The Web site is www.redcross.org.
AmeriCares; 161 Cherry St., New Canaan, Conn. 06840. The toll-free number is 800-486-HELP.
Direct Relief International, Turkey Relief Fund; 27 S. La Patera Lane, Santa Barbara, Calif. 93117. The toll-free number is 800-676-1638. The Web site is www.directrelief.org.
Other organizations offering assistance include:
The Holy Land Foundation: 800-909-6822, hlf.org
Life for Relief and Development: 800-827-3543,
Mercy International USA 800-556-3729
Islamic African Relief Agency 573-443-0166,
Success Foundation 703-820-7199
Global Relief Foundation 888-256-2532,
US Committee for UNICEF 800-FOR-KIDS
World Vision 888-562-4453