Turkey issues 113 arrest warrants over building construction following earthquake
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Featured Image Credit: Twitter/@kayburley
Turkey has issued 113 arrest warrants over building construction issues following the devastating earthquake that took thousands of lives.
According to the latest figures, the death toll is currently at 29,605 in Turkey and 3,574 in Syria as a result of the 7.8-magnitude quake on Monday, February 6.
These figures are expected to rise as rescue teams continue to search the rubble, while millions of survivors have been rendered homeless.
Shocking footage from the deadly disaster shows buildings as they buckled and crumbled to the ground in both countries.
According to Turkey's Environment Minister Murat Kurum, 24,921 buildings across the region either collapsed or were damaged in the quake.
Authorities are now placing the blame on construction contractors who have been accused of illegal building methods.
In a briefing, Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters that 131 suspects have been identified as partially responsible.
Police have issued 113 arrest warrants so far, while at least 12 including building contractors have been detained.
Oktay said (via Reuters): "Detention orders have been issued for 113 of them.
"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."
The move echoes comments online accusing construction contractors of ignoring strict codes designed to ensure apartment blocks and offices are structurally sound in the earthquake-prone region.
British broadcaster Kay Burley shared a clip on Twitter showing two buildings – one that had been rendered a pile of rubble and another that is in perfect condition.
"This is the building for civil engineers," she wrote. "And this is next door."
However, Oktay's announcement has been met with scepticism as many may see the arrests as an attempt to deflect the blame from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces a tough re-election bid with his ruling Justice and Development Party in May.
One of the biggest issues raised has been around building regulations, and how his so-called urban transformation project promised to prepare the country for its next big disaster.
The move led to a construction boom in the 2010s, but many have questioned whether corners were cut in a bid to boost the economy and, subsequently, Erdogan's power.
Gonul Tol, the founding director of the Middle East Institute’s Turkey program and author of Erdogan’s War: A Strongman’s Struggle at Home and in Syria, spoke on the matter in an opinion piece for Foreign Policy.
"The Turkish economy under Erdogan rode high on the back of a construction boom," she wrote.
"He enriched a small circle of close associates from the construction sector by awarding them infrastructure projects without competitive tenders or proper regulatory oversight.
"These companies embarked on a massive building spree, constructing infrastructure and homes in earthquake hot spots without following proper building codes."
Alongside political tensions, disagreements on the ground are causing problems for the rescue teams.
The BBC reports that the Austrian army paused search operations due to clashes between groups in Hatay, with Austrian Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Kugelweis stating: "There is increasing aggression between factions in Turkey.
"The chances of saving a life bears no reasonable relation to the safety risk."