Turkey: 14 people arrested for buildings collapsed in earthquake and search for 33 others

For years Turkey tempted fate by failing to enforce modern building regulations, while allowing — and in some cases encouraging — a property boom in earthquake-prone areas, experts warn.

Madrid, February 11 (Europa Press/AP).– At least 14 people have been arrested in Turkey and another 33 are in a search and capture situation for negligence cases in the construction of buildings that ended up collapsing in the devastating earthquake Monday in the south of the country and in northwestern Syria.

The Prosecutor’s Office thus persecutes about thirty builders of the diyarbakir citywhose buildings, for example, had fewer foundations to free up space, reports the official Anatolia news agency.

One of the detained contractors, Mehmet Ertan Akay, was caught at the Istanbul airport while trying to escape to Montenegro with a large amount of cash. Nine others have been arrested in the towns of Sanliurfa and Osmaniye.

Two women look at their building destroyed by a strong earthquake in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, Wednesday, February 8, 2023. Photo: Hussein Malla, AP


For years Turkey tempted fate by failing to enforce modern building regulations, while allowing — and in some cases encouraging — a property boom in earthquake-prone areas, experts warn.

Lax code enforcement, which geology and engineering experts have long warned about, is now under scrutiny in the wake of devastating earthquakes this week that toppled thousands of buildings and killed more than 20,000 people in Turkey. and Syria.

“This is a disaster caused by shoddy construction, not an earthquake,” said David Alexander, Professor of Emergency Planning at University College London.

This aerial image shows the destruction caused by a powerful earthquake in the center of the city of Kahramanmaras, in southern Turkey, on February 9, 2023. Photo: IHA via AP.

It is well known that many buildings in the areas hit by the two massive earthquakes this week were built with inferior materials and methods and generally did not meet government standards, said Eyup Muhcu, president of the Turkish Chamber of Architects.

Muhcu added that that includes many older buildings, but also apartments built in recent years, nearly two decades after the country brought its building codes up to modern standards. “Construction in the area was poor and not firm, despite the reality of the earthquakes,” Muhcu added.

According to experts, the problem was largely ignored as tackling it would be costly, unpopular and slow down a key driver of the country’s economic growth.

To be sure, the successive earthquakes that demolished or damaged at least 12,000 buildings were extremely powerful: their force was magnified by the fact that they occurred at shallow depths. The first 7.8 magnitude quake struck at 4:17 a.m., making it even more difficult for people to get out of buildings as the ground shook violently. And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has acknowledged “deficiencies” in the country’s response.

But experts have pointed out that there is a mountain of evidence — and debris — pointing to a stark reality about what made the quakes so deadly: While Turkey has, in theory, building codes that meet current standards seismic engineering, are rarely applied, which explains why thousands of buildings have collapsed.

In a country traversed by geological fault lines, people worry about not knowing when and where the next earthquake might strike, particularly in Istanbul, a city of more than 15 million people that is vulnerable to earthquakes.

Following the disaster, Erdogan’s Justice Minister announced that he will investigate what was behind the destroyed buildings.

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