Turkey investigates contractors as earthquake kills more than 33,000

Turkish authorities have launched an investigation into contractors allegedly linked to fatal building collapses following a massive earthquake and aftershocks last Monday.

The big picture: Thousands of buildings have collapsed in Turkey and Syria, with the sheer scale of the destruction and freezing temperatures hampering rescue efforts, although the total death toll topped 33,000 on Sunday.

  • Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters Sunday that 134 people were being investigated for their role in constructing buildings that failed to withstand the tremors.
  • Three people were arrested, seven others were detained and seven others were banned from leaving Turkey, Bozdag added per Politico.
  • Turkey’s building codes, while in line with current earthquake engineering standards, are rarely enforced, which explains why so many buildings collapsed, the AP reported.
  • Turkey’s Environment Minister Murat Kurum has estimated that nearly 25,000 buildings have either collapsed or been badly damaged by the tremors, according to the Guardian.

Game Status: “We will follow this meticulously until the necessary legal process is completed, particularly for buildings that have sustained serious damage as well as buildings that have caused deaths and injuries,” Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

  • Authorities on Sunday arrested two contractors believed to be responsible for the collapse of several buildings in the city of Adiyaman at Istanbul Airport, the New York Times reported, citing local media. The two men were carrying more than $17,000 in cash and were reportedly planning to flee to Georgia.
  • Another contractor who was helping to build a 12-story building in Hatay province that was collapsing was arrested at Istanbul Airport on Friday while trying to board a flight bound for Montenegro, according to the Times. According to the AP, he was formally arrested on Saturday.
  • Two other builders of a destroyed 14-story building in Adana fled Turkey immediately after the earthquake before being arrested in northern Cyprus, according to the Times.

  • Turkey’s Justice Ministry has set up offices to investigate “earthquake crimes” to help investigate and prosecute those responsible for the destruction, according to the AP.

Using the numbers: Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority confirmed Sunday that 29,605 people had died as a result of the quake. That number is expected to increase as search and recovery efforts continue.

  • The agency said Saturday that 80,278 people were injured after the quake.
  • Syrian state media said Friday that at least 1,387 people were killed and over 2,326 others injured in government-controlled areas.
  • The Syrian Civil Defence, First Responders, also known as the White Helmets, called As of Saturday, more than 2,167 people had died and another 2,950 injured in opposition-held areas – bringing the death toll from the quake in the country to at least 3,554 people and the total death toll in the two countries to more than 33,000.

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