Turkey expands probe into building collapse as quake death toll passes 50,000

  • The Justice Minister says 184 people have been arrested as the investigation widens
  • The death toll in Turkey and Syria has exceeded 50,000
  • A firefighter says body parts are found in the rubble every day

ANTAKYA/ISTANBUL, Turkey, Feb 25 (Reuters) – Turkey has arrested 184 people responsible for the collapse of buildings in this month’s earthquakes and investigations are expanding, a minister said on Saturday. Procedures.

Overnight, the death toll from the earthquakes, the most powerful of which hit Turkey in the dead of night on February 6, rose to 44,128. This took the total number of deaths in Turkey and neighboring Syria to more than 50,000.

160,000 buildings containing 520,000 apartments collapsed or were severely damaged in Turkey, making it the worst disaster in the country’s modern history.

Speaking at a press conference in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, one of the 10 provinces affected by the disaster, Justice Minister Bekir Bostak said more than 600 people were being investigated in connection with the collapsed buildings.

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Among those formally arrested and detained are 79 construction contractors, 74 people who take legal responsibility for buildings, 13 property owners and 18 people who have converted buildings.

Many Turks have expressed outrage at what they see as corrupt building practices and flawed urban developments.

Facing the biggest political challenge of his two-decade rule, President Tayyip Erdogan has promised accountability in elections by June.

In Gaziantep province, state broadcaster TRD Haber and other media reported that the mayor of Nurdagi district, a member of Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, was among those arrested as part of an investigation into collapsed buildings.

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‘Breaks My Heart’

Nearly three weeks after the disaster, Turkey has no final death toll, and officials have not said how many bodies may still be trapped under the rubble.

A firefighter clearing rubble in the hard-hit city of Antakya said bodies were being found every day.

“It’s very difficult. If a person raises their hand, you can’t tell them to keep working,” said the firefighter, who declined to be identified.

Nearly two million people displaced by the disaster are housed in tents, container houses and other facilities in the region and other parts of the country, according to Turkey’s Disaster Management Authority.

More than 335,000 tents have been erected in the quake zone and container housing complexes have been established in 130 locations, while nearly 530,000 people have been evacuated from the affected areas.

But near Antakya, Syrian Omran Alswed and his family are still living in makeshift shelters.

“Our houses were heavily damaged, so we took shelter here, in a garden near us,” Alswede said.

“The biggest problem is the tents. Even after 19 days, not a single tent is available. We also applied to go to the tent camp but they said the nearby ones are full,” he said.

Turkey’s remaining ethnic Armenian village of Vagifli was badly hit by the quake, with 30 of its 40 stone houses heavily damaged.

“Vakifli is the only Armenian village in Turkey. This is our home. It breaks my heart to see this,” said Masis, a 67-year-old retired jeweler who spent 17 years moving to his hometown. Years in Istanbul.

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Turkey and Armenia are still at loggerheads over the 1.5 million people Armenia says were killed by the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, in 1915. Armenia calls it genocide.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but disputes the statistics and denies that it was legitimate.

Editing by Tom Perry, written by Helen Popper

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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