The Turkish government, which came under sharp criticism for its sluggish response to the devastating Aug. 17 earthquake, is facing a fresh wave of public anger over its failure to provide adequate shelter for hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by the disaster.

As winter approaches, nowhere is the anger greater than in Adapazari, a once bustling commercial center 100 miles east of Istanbul in northwestern Turkey. Local officials said 70 percent of the buildings were either totally or partially destroyed, making Adapazari and the surrounding area the hardest hit of the seven provinces damaged by the quake.

At least 17,000 people died in the 7.4 magnitude quake, according to the latest official death toll released Thursday.

More than two-thirds of the city's 260,000 residents are living in flimsy, makeshift tents despite repeated government pledges that they would be shifted to winterized shelters before the fall rainy season. Less than half have access to running water, but it is frequently polluted by sewage from burst pipes.

"They expect us to survive in this," said Emine, a gaunt young woman living in a tent city operated by Turkey's equivalent of the Red Cross, the state-run Red Crescent. "But we have nowhere else to go."

Emine's tent, shared by her husband and 3-month-old daughter, was drenched and its contents--a ragged mattress, a plastic table and chair--steeped in mud after the first rain of the season fell on Oct. 7. "There is no medical care, no decent toilets, and we haven't had a shower since the earthquake," she said. "For me, the state is dead."

Over the past month, hundreds of frustrated victims left jobless by the quake have demonstrated near the local governor's office to protest their living conditions, only to be dispersed by club-wielding riot police.

"We are unable to provide adequate services" to victims, acknowledged Yasar Okuyan, a government official. He said that "even the number of prefabricated houses [required for the stricken areas] has not been calculated properly."

Aziz Duran, Adapazari's mayor and a member of the Islam-based Virtue party, says he is hopeful that the national government's pledge of 11,000 prefabricated homes and winterized tents will provide some relief. But he is unable to say when they'll arrive. "The governor knows," Duran said. "He's in charge."

But according to Ferruh Bulut, the editor of the local newspaper, "nobody is really in charge here." During an interview in an igloo-shaped tent, which serves as the newspaper's newsroom, Bulut said: "The governor and the mayor are competing for influence. We have politicians parading in and out, promising this and that, and delivering nothing.

"Meanwhile" he added, "the Turkish army, foreign aid workers and private charities are doing a great job putting the government to shame."

Chief among these are pro-Islamic groups, which moved swiftly in the days after the earthquake to take part in rescue operations and set up tent cities and soup kitchens.

Fearing that the Islamic groups would cash in on the disaster, Turkey's pro-secular armed forces ordered the government to crack down. Some of the groups' bank accounts were frozen, and most were prevented from delivering aid.