Turkey arrests building contractors six days after quake
Published 7:22 am Sunday, February 12, 2023
Turkish officials detained or issued arrest warrants for some 130 people allegedly involved in shoddy and illegal construction methods as rescuers on Sunday continued to pull a few survivors from the rubble, six days after a pair of earthquakes collapsed thousands of buildings.
The death toll from Monday’s quakes that hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria stood at 28,191 — with another 80,000–plus injured — as of Sunday morning and was certain to rise as bodies continued to be uncovered.
As despair also bred rage at the agonizingly slow rescue efforts, the focus turned to who was to blame for not better preparing people in the earthquake–prone region that includes an area of Syria that was already suffering from years of civil war.
Email newsletter signup
Even though Turkey has, on paper, construction codes that meet current earthquake–engineering standards, they are too rarely enforced, explaining why thousands of buildings slumped onto their side or pancaked downward onto residents.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said late on Saturday that warrants have been issued for the detention of 131 people suspected to being responsible for collapsed buildings.
Turkey’s justice minister has vowed to punish anyone responsible, and prosecutors have begun gathering samples of buildings for evidence on materials used in constructions. The quakes were powerful, but victims, experts and people across Turkey are blaming bad construction for multiplying the devastation.
Authorities at Istanbul Airport on Sunday detained two contractors held responsible for the destruction of several buildings in Adiyaman, the private DHA news agency and other media reported. The pair were reportedly on their way to Georgia.
One of the arrested contractors, Yavuz Karakus, told reporters Sunday: “My conscience is clear. I built 44 buildings. Four of them were demolished. I did everything according to the rules,” the DHA news agency reported.
Two more people were arrested in the province of Gaziantep suspected of having cut down columns to make extra room in a building that collapsed, the state–run Anadolu Agency said.
A day earlier, Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced the planned establishment of “Earthquake Crimes Investigation” bureaus. The bureaus would aim to identify contractors and others responsible for building works, gather evidence, instruct experts including architects, geologists and engineers, and check building permits and occupation permits.
A building contractor was detained by authorities on Friday at Istanbul airport before he could board a flight out of the country. He was the contractor of a luxury 12–story building in the historic city of Antakya, in Hatay province, the collapse of which left an untold number of dead.