Turkish authorities hail arrests in quake probes

Turkish authorities hail arrests in quake probes

More than 600 people are under investigation in Turkey over building collapses in the February 6 earthquake, according to the authorities.

Justice minister Bekir Bozdag said 184 suspects, including construction contractors and property owners, were under arrest.

Endemic corruption and backfiring government policies meant many new builds were unsafe, analysts have warned for years.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake’s confirmed death toll in Turkey and Syria has exceeded 50,000.

Bozdag, who was visiting the disaster zone in southeastern Turkey, said those detained include 79 construction contractors, 74 people who bear legal responsibility for buildings, 13 property owners and 18 people who made alterations to buildings.

A mayor of one of the towns close to the epicentre was among those arrested, Turkish media reported.

In Gaziantep province, the mayor of the Nurdagi district from Erdogan’s AK Party was arrested as part of the investigations into collapsed buildings, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported.

More than 160,00 buildings collapsed or were severely damaged in Turkey after the quake and its powerful aftershocks, sparking claims that building regulations had been ignored.

Industry watchers say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies have in-effect allowed amnesties for contractors who ignored building regulations to encourage a construction boom, including in earthquake-prone regions.

With a presidential election looming, Erdogan has blamed fate for the disaster.

“Such things have always happened. It’s part of destiny’s plan,” Erdogan recently said while visiting the region.

A firefighter in the city of Antakya said body parts were found each day.

“It’s very difficult. You cannot tell a man to continue working if he’s lifting out a person’s arm,” he said.

Nearly 2 million people are left homeless in tents, container homes and other makeshift solutions, according to Turkey’s disaster management authority.

Turkey’s only remaining ethnically Armenian village, Vakifli, was damaged with 30 of its 40 stone houses affected.

“Vakifli is all we have, the only Armenian village in Turkey. It is our home. Seeing it like this is breaking my heart,” said Masis, 67, who was born in the village.

Picture credit: YouTube

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