Quake Death Toll Jumps Again

It's now above 33K as Turkish authorities start going after building contractors
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 12, 2023 9:05 AM CST
Detained Contractor in Turkey: 'My Conscience Is Clear'
An aerial photo showing the destruction in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey.   (Ahmet Akpolat/DIA via AP, File)

Turkish officials targeted more than 130 people allegedly involved in shoddy and illegal construction methods in the wake of Monday's earthquakes. In the meantime, the death toll in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria rose to 33,179 on Sunday and was certain to rise as search terms locate more bodies, per the AP. Authorities said more than 92,600 other people were injured. As despair also bred rage at the agonizingly slow rescue efforts, the focus turned to who was to blame for not better preparing people in the quake-prone region.

Even though Turkey has, on paper, construction codes that meet current earthquake-engineering standards, they are too rarely enforced, explaining why thousands of buildings slumped onto their side or pancaked downward onto residents. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Sunday that 134 people were being investigated for their alleged responsibility in the construction of buildings that failed to withstand the quakes, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. He said that three had been arrested pending trial, seven people were detained, and seven other were barred from leaving the country.

Prosecutors have begun gathering samples of buildings for evidence on materials used in construction. Authorities at Istanbul Airport on Sunday detained two contractors held responsible for the destruction of several buildings in Adiyaman, Turkey, the private DHA news agency and other media reported. The pair were reportedly on their way to Georgia. One of the arrested contractors, Yavuz Karakus, told reporters Sunday: “My conscience is clear. I built 44 buildings. Four of them were demolished. I did everything according to the rules,” the DHA news agency reported. (More Turkey-Syria earthquake stories.)

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