Contractors linked to collapsed buildings in earthquake cities arrested in Turkiye

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Members of Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit search for survivors in Hatay © Photo by Reuters

Justice Minister of Turkiye decided to establish Earthquake Crimes Investigation Offices on February 11, six days after the disaster, in the provinces affected by the earthquakes in Kahramanmaraş. Many prosecutors were assigned to the earthquake area and investigations into the contractors of demolished and damaged structures continue.

“We will follow this up meticulously until the necessary judicial process is concluded, especially for buildings that suffered heavy damage and buildings that caused deaths and injuries,” he said.

Also, Environment Minister of Turkiye Murat Kurum said that 24,921 buildings across the region had collapsed or were heavily damaged in the quake, based on assessments of more than 170,000 buildings.

Rescuers were still looking for survivors in the earthquake rubble six days after the disaster, which hit parts of Syria and Turkiye. The death toll has exceeded 32,000 and is expected to rise further. The quake was described as the “worst event in 100 years in this region” by the United Nations aid chief.

Learn more about architects’ role in a post-earthquake recovery, and also how you help Turkey and Syria with your donations.

Sanliurfa, Turkey © Photo by AFP

With elections approaching, the president’s future is in danger after 20 years in power. Mr. Erdogan said to words to an earthquake survivor in Pazarcık, “Such things have always happened,” added, “It’s part of destiny’s plan.” But on the other hand, University College London professor David Alexander said that the earthquake was “not necessarily [large] enough to bring well-constructed buildings down”.

Turkiye Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdağ, announced on February 12 that 134 suspects (a few of them are contractors of collapsed buildings) have been prosecuted so far within the scope of the investigations, and already three people have been arrested. One of them was a 12-story complex built a decade ago in Antakya by contractor Mehmet Yasar Coskun, who was detained at Istanbul airport before boarding a flight for Montenegro and has since been arrested. But also, the contractor told prosecutors he did not know why it had collapsed, Reuters reported.

“We fulfilled all procedures set out in legislation,” Coskun told local news agency company Anadolu Ajans. “All licenses were obtained.”

Since the disaster has just occurred, detentions continue rapidly. But with that comes other questions we need to ask. In disasters such as earthquakes, is only the contractors guilty? Isn’t this the common fault of architects, planners, civil engineers, and the state that approves illegal structures? I hope that this will be discussed more in Turkey and around the world in the future.

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