612 investigated, 184 detained over building collapses in Turkey quakes

Rescue workers and volunteers conduct search and rescue operations in the rubble of a collasped building, in Diyarbakır on February 6, 2023, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country's south. AFP

Turkish authorities have launched investigations into 612 people over buildings that collapsed in devastating earthquakes which hit the country’s south on February 6, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on Saturday.

According to Bozdağ, 184 of the suspects have been detained, while prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 71 individuals, the Evrensel daily reported.  

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.

Investigations include contractors and building owners and managers, Bozdağ said in televised comments.

In the face of growing anger, several contractor were arrested in the first days following the earthquakes.

At least 1.5 million people have been left homeless and 500,000 new homes need to be built after the devastating earthquakes and dozens of aftershocks in southern Turkey, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts.

Turkey has begun work to rebuild homes following the earthquakes, despite the fact that architects and engineers warn that officials should carefully reconsider urban planning and building safety before a hasty rebuild.

A presidential decree published last week in the Official Gazette included the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s roadmap for reconstruction in the earthquake-affected cities, where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency soon after the quakes.

According to the decree, title transfer and expropriation decisions may be carried out for immovable properties belonging to public institutions and organizations and for all immovable properties under private ownership.

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