updated 2/4/2004 4:38:31 AM ET 2004-02-04T09:38:31

Workers rescued 31 survivors and pulled out 22 bodies from the rubble of a collapsed apartment building as relatives Wednesday waited for news of dozens still unaccounted for.

The sudden collapse of the 11-story apartment building on Monday evening has prompted new accusations about shoddy construction in Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for tougher laws on building codes.

Rescue workers scrambling to free dozens of people believed trapped inside the building, pulled out the bodies of five other victims on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 22. Thirty-one survivors were evacuated.

Fading hope
Hopes of finding more survivors began to fade on Wednesday and there were fears the number of dead could rise as the workers removed debris. On Wednesday, relief workers used cranes and bulldozers to remove debris as trained dogs and electronic listening equipment failed to detect any signs of life.

"Our wish is to find more survivors," Deputy Gov. Halil Uymaz of Konya city told private CNN-Turk television on Wednesday.

Between 40 and 100 people were believed trapped, officials said. Rescue teams were working around the clock in an operation that could take days, they said.

Authorities blamed the collapse on shoddy construction. Poor construction was also blamed for many of the 17,000 deaths in a 1999 earthquake.

"This is entirely a technical failure. As long as the sanctions for these type of things aren't heavy, citizens will pay the price with their life," Erdogan said Tuesday. "Nobody has that right. We won't allow it."

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said "human life is so precious and should not be lost as a result of irresponsibility."

Authorities were pursuing the builders for questioning, CNN-Turk television said.

The floors of the apartment building collapsed on top of each other, reducing the 11-story building to a heap of concrete slabs and twisted metal about the size of a two-story building.

Thirty-six hours after the collapse, the chances of finding survivors were growing dim.

"I don't see much chance of life," said Hakan Korkut, an official for the private search and rescue team AKUT. "There are only a few air pockets; the rest is like powder."

Onlookers cheered Tuesday when a middle-aged woman was pulled conscious from the wreckage.

Families were celebrating holiday
Rescue worker Ilhan Ozgur said the teams were trying to reach living rooms where families would have been celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha with friends and relatives.

Ahmet Turkoglu, 56, was celebrating the holiday with his family on the eighth floor when the building caved in. "Everything collapsed in a few seconds," said Turkoglu, who was rescued Monday.

"My grandchildren were still holding their balloons in the debris," said Turkoglu, who said he was trapped under a heavy piece of metal and unable to help family members. His grandchildren apparently were rescued.

Hatice Kubra Turkoglu, Ahmet Turkoglu's daughter-in-law, also was pulled from the rubble Tuesday. "I dug at the soil with my hands and I was shouting," she said.

Some 140 people lives in the building's 37 apartments, officials said, but it was unclear how many people were inside at the time. Officials said at least 18 residents were not in the building but others may have had visitors at the time.

In May, a dormitory in eastern Turkey collapsed during a magnitude 6.4-earthquake, killing 84 students. Critics blamed that collapse on shoddy construction.

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