Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Saturday evening that 113 arrest warrants had been issued on charges related to the construction of buildings destroyed by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria last week, which has killed more than 33,000 people so far. The arrest warrants concern builders, engineers, architects and other construction workers accused of having contributed through their negligence to the construction of buildings that do not comply with earthquake regulations. Oktay added that a wider investigation has been launched to ascertain the role played by illegal building in the collapses of buildings.
The issue of abuses in construction and how uncontrolled building development may have contributed to the thousands of deaths has been talked about for days in Turkey. In recent decades, building development had been an important factor in the country’s economic growth, but it had often occurred in an uncontrolled and speculative manner. Even though the Turkish authorities had tried to bring the buildings up to standard, the parliament had approved numerous amnesties, which had actually encouraged illegal building in the country.
In recent days, the opposition parties have accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being partly responsible for all this. Among other things, they spoke of an alleged misuse of funds that had been allocated after a major earthquake in 1999. That money was intended for reconstruction and for retrofitting older buildings to earthquake standards, but according to Erdogan’s critics they would instead be used for other works, including highway construction.
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In the meantime, rescue operations are continuing for people who are still missing under the rubble of collapsed buildings. According to the latest data released by the Turkish authorities, people died as a result of the earthquake in Turkey they are 29,605. On the other hand, the information arriving from Syria is much less clear, where relief efforts are very slow: it is known that there are at least 3,500 dead, but it is certain that there are actually more, also because no updated information has arrived from Syria since Friday.