On the first floor of city hall are folding tables bearing signs that describe the city's preoccupations seven days after an earthquake killed hundreds of its residents. "Dead Bodies," said one sign. Others read: "Building Inspections," "Food Distribution," "Working Machines."

On the second floor, in a conference room next to Mayor Hasan Kanal's office, is a maelstrom that matches the chaos on the rubble-strewn streets. Scores of citizens and officials yell, gesture, plead and rush from one beleaguered mayoral aide to another. The phones are among the few that work in the area, but somehow they are ringing off the hook, giving a dozen volunteers not even two minutes of rest.

Outside, dozens of residents keep vigil as backhoes and bulldozers slowly work their way through piles of rubble, rushing forward at any sign of a corpse to see if it is that of a relative. Electricity has still not been restored, for fear of explosions; water is scarce; food is being trucked in from neighboring communities.

Deputy Governor Dursun Sahin pithily described his surroundings. He was sent here by the interior minister "to help organize things," he said, "but as you can see, everything is terrible--the material things." It is a sentiment expressed by residents in dozens of towns and villages that are digging out in earnest and finally beginning to come to grips with the immense task of reconstruction in the wake of a disaster that has taken at least 12,000 lives.

Tent cities are sprouting throughout Turkey's ravaged northwest to help house an estimated 200,000 people whose apartments and homes were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Unclaimed bodies are being buried in trenches near here, and lime has been spread on streets and sidewalks as a precaution against disease. More than a dozen countries have begun to ship in medicine and medical equipment to help the country cope with more than 33,000 injured.

Faced with such a daunting challenge, many residents are becoming testy. When the military abruptly barred access to the naval base here for commercial ferries from the quake-ravaged city of Izmit, angry shouts erupted between prospective passengers and a naval officer, who later apologized, explaining that he was exhausted and distraught over having lost so many friends.

Turkish army troops--part of a military force of 800,000 that lacks its own rescue team--were finally deployed to supervise digging operations and help guard against looting, a problem that has been growing slowly in recent days. But they were the butt of criticism in the resort city of Yalova and elsewhere for not acting sooner.

The "crisis desks" established at more than a dozen mayoral offices in the disaster zone are the epicenters of the government's efforts to deal with the hardships the earthquake wrought. "We have every type of problem here, whatever you want," said Aylin Dina, 19, a student who volunteered to help staff the center in Golcuk. "There are a lot of requests, but we can't be of much help because it's all so crowded. They all want food and water, but because there are so many crushed buildings, we cannot help them all."

Ali Aydin, 49, a crane dealer, went to the center because he had finished using one of his machines to pluck nine corpses from a collapsed apartment house, and he wanted to know where to go next. Neslihan Tonga, 25, is there to find work for the rescue team from Mexico, which arrived Saturday saying it will seek only to recover trapped survivors, not recover corpses. After five days, there is little for the Mexicans to do.

Huseyin Sen, 50, chief of the village of Icadiye near here, wanted help drafting a letter requesting 50 tents to help house 250 refugees from Golcuk. "We are worried about our guests," he said with a smile. Mehmet Yilmaz, 45, showed up to renew a previous request for a crane to help dig out the son of his wife's uncle, along with the corpses of other relatives.

Lawyer Ferhan Dogan, 47, said she has assembled a volunteer team and donated goods, including white cloth for Muslim burials. But she was told by an official at the Dead Bodies desk that "we don't need the cloth. We are at the packaging stage. We put them in bags." Dogan waited awhile, then confessed, "We don't know what to do right now."

In a corner of Turkey's largest naval base, which dominates Golcuk, Israeli Lt. Col. Rafi Agnon, 44, rested under a shade tree and described why the search for survivors and corpses has been difficult. He and the members of his teams, numbering more than 300, arrived here Wednesday night in a testament to the military bond formed between Israel and Turkey in the past year.

They found "an absolute mess," with no one sure where or how numerous the victims might be, said his colleague, Staff Sgt. Israel Spiro, 21. In the next four days, they pulled nine survivors from one building and retrieved 132 bodies from a handful of other sites, including the bodies of 20 cadets this morning from a dormitory at Turkey's naval academy.

The school's commander was buried Thursday in Istanbul. Two other admirals died along with 37 other people at a posh guest house at the edge of the Sea of Marmara. Erected 70 years ago, the building was "constructed incredibly badly," said Agnon. "There were no real walls."

Armed with the guest house registration book, Agnon and his teams searched through the rubble for door numbers to find victims. Each one, he said, was frozen in the last moments of life. One naval officer was killed by a concrete block while seated at a desk chair; another had tried to cover his wife's body with his own while grasping the telephone to call for help. Another couple was found in bed, but the woman was married to someone else and registered in the room across the hall.

"I have been at other earthquake sites, but seeing the bodies is always the toughest part," Agnon said. "It never becomes easy."

CAPTION: Residents of the town of Sakarya reach out for surgical masks, as authorities fear the spread of disease due to high temperatures and lack of sanitation.