On the outskirts of Antioquia a large makeshift cemetery was being prepared. Bulldozers and bulldozers dug trenches in the field while trucks and ambulances laden with black body bags arrived endlessly. The hundreds of graves, separated by barely one meter (three feet), were marked with simple wooden planks nailed vertically to the ground.
By Justin Spike and Suzan Fraser
ANTIOCH, Turkey (AP) .- While the rescuers they kept taking out a few lucky alive from the rubblesix days after a couple of earthquakes will devastate the southeast of Turkey and the north of Syriathe Turkish authorities detained or issued arrest warrants for around 130 people supposedly involved in the construction of buildings that collapsed and buried their occupants.
The death toll from earthquakes Monday arrived on Sunday morning at 33 thousand 179 peoplewith more than 92 thousand 600 injuredand there was certainty that it would continue to rise as more corpses.
Desperation was also fueling outrage at the slow pace of rescue efforts, with attention focused on who was responsible for not better preparing people in an earthquake-prone region. The quake also hit an area of Syria that had been suffering from civil war for years.
Although on paper Turkey has building regulations that meet current earthquake engineering standards, these protocols are often not enforced, which explains why thousands of buildings collapsed to the side or top to bottom on their residents.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Sunday that 134 people are being investigated for their possible responsibility in the construction of the buildings, the news agency reported. anadolu. He added that three have been arrested for trial, seven have been detained and another seven have been barred from leaving the country.
Bozdag has vowed to punish all those responsible and the Prosecutor’s Office has begun taking samples of construction materials to use as evidence. Although the quakes were strong, victims, experts and people across Turkey blamed poor construction for multiplying the devastation.
Two contractors accused of destroying several buildings in Adiyaman were detained at Istanbul Airport on Sunday, according to the private news agency DHA and other media. The two were on their way to Georgia, the reports said.
Authorities also detained two people in Gaziantep province accused of cutting pillars to gain space in a collapsed building, according to the state news agency. anadolu.
The Turkish Ministry of Justice had announced the day before that offices of “Earthquake Crime Investigation” would be formed. Those offices would identify contractors and others responsible for construction work, gather evidence, train experts such as architects, geologists, and engineers, and check building and occupancy permits.
A contractor was detained at an Istanbul airport on Friday before he could board a flight out of the country. He was the contractor for a 12-story luxury building in the historic city of Antioch, in Hatay province, which killed an unknown number of people when it collapsed.
The arrests could help direct public discontent toward builders and contractors and divert it away from state and local authorities who allowed seemingly irregular construction to go ahead. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, already plagued by an economic crisis and skyrocketing inflation, is facing parliamentary and presidential elections in May.
Survivors, many of whom have lost loved ones, have also directed their frustration and anger at the authorities. Rescue workers have been overwhelmed by the scale of the damage, which has affected roads and airports, further complicating the race against time.
Erdogan admitted this week that the initial response had been hampered by the extent of the damage. He said the hardest-hit area in Turkey was about 500 kilometers (310 miles) in diameter and had 13.5 million people. During a tour of quake-hit cities on Saturday, Erdogan said a catastrophe of that size was unusual, describing it again as the “disaster of the century.”
Rescuers, including teams from other countries, continued to search through the rubble in the hope of finding more people who could challenge the dwindling odds of survival. Thermal cameras were used to search among piles of concrete and metal as rescuers called for silence to hear the voices of the trapped people.
Two sisters were pulled from the wreckage on Sunday in the city of Adiyaman 153 hours after the first earthquake, according to television. HaberTurk, which also broadcast the rescue of a 6-year-old boy live. The images showed the boy covered by a thermal blanket and how he was placed in an ambulance. An exhausted rescuer removed his surgical mask and took a deep breath as a group of women could be heard cheering.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca shared a video of a girl dressed in dark blue who had been rescued. “Good news at hour 150. Recently rescued by the teams. There is always hope!” he tweeted.
The efforts of a team of Turkish and Italian rescuers also paid off when they pulled a 35-year-old man from the rubble in the battered city of Antioquia. The man, Mustafa Sarigul, appeared unharmed as he was carried on a stretcher to an ambulance, 149 hours after the first quakes, according to private television. NTV.
A child was also rescued at night in the town of Nizip, in Gaziantep, according to the state agency. anadolu, while a 32-year-old woman was rescued from the ruins of an eight-story building in Antioquia. The woman, a teacher named Meltem, asked for tea as soon as she was released, according to NTV.
In Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter of the first 7.8-magnitude temblor early Monday, work was underway to reach a survivor detected by bloodhounds under a seven-story building, it said. NTV.
However, those found alive were still the exception.
The situation was less clear on the other side of the border with Syria.
The death toll in rebel-held northwestern Syria has reached 2,166, according to the White Helmets rescue group. The total death toll in Syria stood at 3,553 on Saturday, although the number of 1,387 deaths reported in government-controlled areas had not been updated for several days.