Turkey earthquake: 130 building contractors face arrest for violating safety code

Turkey earthquake: 130 building contractors face arrest for violating safety code

Follow the latest news on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Arrest warrants have been issued against 130 people in Turkey after authorities said violations of building safety standards had caused unnecessary deaths, six days after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake levelled at least 12,000 buildings in Syria and Turkey, killing more than 28,000 people.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay confirmed the arrest warrants on Sunday, and police said at least 12 people had been arrested.

Last week, Turkey’s Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag warned that “those who have been negligent, at fault and responsible for the destruction following the earthquake will answer to justice.”

Turkey has had building safety guidelines for construction in earthquake-prone areas in place for nearly two decades, but experts say they have rarely been enforced.

Eyup Muhcu, the president of the Chamber of Architects of Turkey, told AFP last week that many buildings near the epicentre of the disaster had been hastily erected with “weak and not sturdy” construction. At least 12,000 buildings collapsed in the disaster and the Turkish government is now racing to evaluate which collapses were the result of negligence by contractors.

Authorities at Istanbul Airport on Sunday detained two contractors held responsible for the destruction of several buildings in Adiyaman, the private DHA news agency and other media reported. The pair were reportedly on their way to Georgia.

Two more people were arrested in the province of Gaziantep suspected of having cut down columns to make extra room in a building that collapsed, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry has announced the planned establishment of Earthquake Crimes Investigation bureaus. The bureaus would aim to identify contractors and others responsible for building works, gather evidence, instruct experts including architects, geologists and engineers, and check building permits and occupation permits.

A building contractor was detained by authorities on Friday at Istanbul airport before he could board a flight out of the country. He was the contractor on a luxury 12-story building in the historic city of Antakya, in Hatay province, the collapse of which caused many deaths.

The detentions could help direct public anger towards builders and contractors, deflecting attention away from local and state officials who allowed the apparently sub-standard constructions to go ahead. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, already burdened by an economic downturn and high inflation, faces parliamentary and presidential elections in May.

Survivors, many of whom have lost loved ones, have directed their frustration and anger at authorities. Rescue crews have been overwhelmed by the widespread damage which has affected roads and airports, making it even more difficult in the race against the clock to rescue people.

Mr Erdogan acknowledged earlier in the week that the initial response has been hampered by the extensive damage. He said the worst-affected area was 500km in diameter and home to 13.5 million people in Turkey. During a tour of quake-damaged cities Saturday, Mr Erdogan said a disaster of this scope was rare, and again referred to it as the “disaster of the century.”

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