Disasters & Accidents

Turkey, Syria quake deaths exceed 28,000 as UN fears toll could double

Beirut/Ankara, Feb 12 (EFE).- The number of deaths reported from earthquakes in Turkey and Syria rose to 28,192 on Sunday, as hopes to find more victims alive under the rubble started to fade.

United Nations aid chief Martin Griffith has warned that the death toll could “double or more” during a visit to Turkey’s worst-hit province of Kahramanmaras.

“I think it is difficult to estimate precisely as we need to get under the rubble but I’m sure it will double or more,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told Sky News on Saturday.

“That’s terrifying. This is nature striking back in a really harsh way,” he added.

In Turkey, some 24,617 deaths and more than 80,000 injuries have been recorded so far, according to vice president Fuat Oktay, making the two earthquakes that hit the southeastern part of the country on Monday the deadliest since 1939.

Meanwhile, survivors continued to be found.

A 12-year-old Syrian boy was pulled alive on Sunday after being trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building in the southeastern Turkish province of Hatay for 147 hours.

In war-ravaged Syria, at least 3,575 people have died and around 5,300 were injured. Syrian victims are mostly registered in rebel-controlled northwestern areas, where the White Helmets civil defense force ended rescue efforts on Saturday.

The White Helmets, which works in opposition-held areas, said the death toll in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo had risen to 2,167 with over 2,950 injured. Another 1,408 people died and 2,341 others were wounded in areas controlled by the government of president Bashar al-Assad.

The first earthquake hit early on Monday with a 7.7-magnitude, followed by another 7.6-magnitude quake, with hundreds of aftershocks registered since the first tremor, according to Turkish disaster authority AFAD.

So far, more than 110 arrest warrants have been issued after the Turkish prosecutor’s office launched a special unit to investigate alleged construction negligence after more than 6,000 buildings were toppled by the quakes, Oktay said.

At least 14 people, including constructors, have been detained after buildings collapsed in the provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa.

The justice ministry said it was crucial to gather evidence and impose precautionary measures on suspects to prevent them from fleeing the country.

On Friday, the police arrested a Turkish constructor of a residential building that collapsed with more than 100 people in Hatay at an Istanbul airport as he was trying to flee to Montenegro.

Renaissance Residence was one of the most exclusive buildings in Hatay’s capital Antioquia. It was built in 2013 and advertised as “an image of paradise”.

In another investigation, prosecutors have ordered the arrest of 33 people in Diyarbakir for negligence after removing pillars to make more space in homes, impacting the structural resistance of buildings.

The arrests came after mounting criticism and anger towards president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government with citizens saying more could have been done to manage the disaster and save more lives.

The brewing anger could be pivotal in the looming May presidential elections where Erdogan will be seeking a third term.EFE


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