Tue, May

Earthquake: Turkish Government Issues 113 Building Arrest Warrants

Middle East & Asia News

Turkish government has vowed on Sunday to investigate thoroughly all persons suspected of being part of the factors responsible for the collapse of buildings in the country's devastating earthquakes nearly one week ago and has already ordered the detention of 113 suspects. Vice President Fuat Oktay stated overnight that 131 suspects had so far been identified as responsible for the collapse of some of the thousands of buildings flattened in the 10 provinces affected by the powerful tremors early last Monday. He revealed that the justice ministry had established earthquake crimes investigation bureaus in the quake zone provinces to investigate deaths and injuries. Oktay while speaking to reporters in a briefing at the disaster management coordination centre in Ankara said, "Detention orders have been issued for 113 of them."

"We will follow this up meticulously until the necessary judicial process is concluded, especially for buildings that suffered heavy damage and buildings that caused deaths and injuries."

Turkish police have already taken at least 12 people into custody, including building contractors. More arrests are expected - but the action will by seen by many as an attempt to divert overall blame for the disaster.

Environment Minister Murat Kurum said that 24,921 buildings all over the region had collapsed or were heavily damaged in the quake, based on assessments of over 170,000 buildings.

Rescuers continued searching for survivors in the earthquake rubble six days after the disaster, which devastated parts of Syria and Turkey. The death toll has exceeded 28,000 and is expected to rise further.

Opposition parties have accused President Tayyip Erdogan's government of not enforcing building regulations, and of mis-spending special taxes levied after the last major earthquake in 1999 in order to make buildings more resistant to quakes.

For years, experts cautioned that many erected buildings in Turkey were unsafe due to endemic corruption and government policies. Those policies allowed so-called amnesties for contractors who violated building regulations, in order to encourage a construction boom, even in earthquake-prone regions.

With elections approaching, the president’s political future is on the line after spending 20 years in power.

Mr Erdogan, though has admitted shortcomings in his response to the allegations, but, during one visit to a disaster zone, he appeared to blame fate. "Such things have always happened," he said. "It's part of destiny's plan."

Meanwhile, riots in southern Turkey had disrupted rescue efforts in some places.

German rescuers and the Austrian army on Saturday, paused search operations because of clashes between unnamed groups in Hatay province. Security is expected to worsen as food supplies dwindle, one rescuer said.

The search for survivors resumed under the protection of the Turkish army.

Across southern Turkey and northern Syria, millions of people have been rendered homeless, and temperatures continue to drop below freezing on a nightly basis.

The United Nations (UN) has warned that over 800,000 people are without proper sustenance, and its aid agency on the ground is warning the final death toll from the quake is likely to double.