Turkey has decided to thoroughly investigate anyone suspected of responsibility for the collapse of buildings in the country’s catastrophic earthquakes, having already ordered the arrest of 113 suspects.
Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said late on Saturday that 131 suspects had so far been identified as responsible for the collapse of some of the thousands of buildings flattened in the 10 provinces affected by the earthquakes on Monday.
“Detention orders have been issued for 113 of them,” Oktay told reporters in a briefing.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s justice minister has promised to punish anyone responsible and prosecutors have begun gathering samples of buildings for evidence on materials used in construction.
While the quakes were powerful, victims, experts and people across Turkey are blaming poor construction for the extent of the damage.
Environment Minister Murat Kurum said, based on the assessment of more than 170,000 buildings, 24,921 structures across the region had collapsed or were heavily damaged.
Rescuers were still looking for survivors in the rubble six days after the disaster, which hit parts of Syria and Turkey. The death toll has exceeded 29,000 and is expected to rise further.
Opposition parties have accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government of not enforcing building regulations, and of misspending special taxes levied after the last major earthquake in 1999 to make buildings more resistant to quakes.
State prosecutors in Adana ordered the arrest of 62 people in an investigation into collapsed buildings, while prosecutors sought the arrest of 33 people in Diyarbakir for the same reason, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
It said eight people had been arrested in Sanliurfa and four in Osmaniye in connection with destroyed buildings believed to have faults, such as columns being removed.
Police detained the developer of one residential complex which collapsed in Antakya at Istanbul Airport as he prepared to board a flight for Montenegro on Friday evening. He was formally arrested on Saturday.
The upmarket 12-storey residential complex was completed a decade ago and consisted of 249 apartments. There was no information on the casualties in that building.
The arrested man told prosecutors he did not know why the complex collapsed and that his desire to go to Montenegro was unrelated, Anadolu reported.
“We fulfilled all procedures set out in legislation,” he was quoted by Anadolu as saying. “All licences were obtained.”
Erdogan acknowledged earlier that the initial response was hampered by the extensive damage.
He said the worst-affected area was 500km (310 miles) in diameter and was home to 13.5 million people.