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Turkiye expands probe into construction sector

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ANKARA: Turkish authorities have expanded a criminal probe into individuals responsible for buildings levelled by a deadly earthquake with 564 suspects identified, the interior minister has announced.

A 7.8-magnitude tremor on Feb 6 and its aftershocks have killed more than 43,000 people in Turkiye and left millions without homes.

“160 of them have been detained, 18 are in police custody and 175 have been released on bail,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in an interview on the state-run TRT Haber channel late on Wednesday.

“Our cities will be built in the right places, our children will live in stronger cities. We know what kind of test we are facing, and we will come out of this stronger,” he said.

“We have banned all of those under investigation from travelling. Nothing is more precious than human life.

“We are being thorough.” Tens of thousands of buildings collapsed without warning following the violent tremor as many people slept.

Turkish media has vocally criticised developers for using shoddy materials and failing to comply with construction codes.

In the face of growing anger, several developers were arrested in the first days following the earthquake.

“1,250,000 buildings were examined in 11 provinces. 164,321 buildings made up of 520,000 independent units have already been destroyed, severely damaged or urgently need to be destroyed,” Environment Minister Murat Kurum announced on Thursday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced plans to rebuild 270,000 homes in the devastated provinces within one year.

“We are making plans taking into account the cultural landscape, our children’s future and guaranteeing our towns are on safe ground,” Kurum added.

“We will build the new housing with this in mind.”

Turkiye’s President Tayyip Erdogan, in power for two decades and gearing up for elections within four months, faces accusations from opposition parties that his own government failed to enforce building regulations.

Even before Feb 6, opinion polls showed he was under pressure from a cost of living crisis, which could worsen as the disaster has disrupted agricultural production in southern Turkiye.

Suleyman Soylu said 313,000 tents had been erected, with 100,000 container homes to be installed in the disaster zone which stretches for hundreds of kilometres inland from the Turkish and Syrian Mediterranean coast.

Raphael Pitti, a doctor with the French non-governmental organisation Mehad, tours on February 20, 2023 the devastated areas in Jindayris in the rebel-held Syrian province of Aleppo in the aftermath of the February 6 earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria to assess the situation. — AFP
The number of people killed in Turkiye has risen to 43,556, Soylu said, while in Syria the death toll was close to 6,000.

The United Nations said more than 4,500 were killed in Syria’s rebel-held northwest, and the Syrian government said 1,414 people died in the area under its control.

There is no one left in town. There is nothing to do, said Caner Ozdemir after getting off a bus that arrived from Kirikhan to the train station in the coastal city of Iskenderun.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2023


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