Six days after devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria topped 33,000 on Sunday, rescuers pulled survivors, including several children, from the rubble.
As the chances of finding survivors dwindle, the toll is expected to continue to rise. This is the deadliest earthquake in Turkey since 1939.
In the meantime, the Turkish authorities have taken legal action following the collapse of certain buildings. The quality of construction in a country on seismic fault lines has come under scrutiny.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said 131 suspects had been identified so far in connection with the collapse of some of the thousands of buildings in 10 affected provinces.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has promised to start reconstruction within weeks. The earthquake occurred on the eve of presidential and legislative elections scheduled for June. Even before the disaster, Erdogan’s popularity began to fall due to the rapid growth of inflation and the collapse of the Turkish currency.
Some earthquake victims and opposition politicians have accused the government of slow and inadequate relief efforts, and critics have questioned why the military, which played a key role in the aftermath of the earthquake of 1999, had not been mobilized earlier.
Erdogan acknowledged the problems, particularly difficulties in delivering aid, but said the situation had been brought under control despite damaged transport links. He called for solidarity and condemned the “negative” policy.
In Syria, the disaster has hit the opposition-controlled northwest hardest, once again leaving many people homeless who had already been repeatedly displaced by a decade of civil war. The area has received little aid compared to government-controlled areas.
‘We have failed the people of northwest Syria,’ tweeted UN aid chief Martin Griffiths from the Turkish-Syrian border, where only one border post is open for supplies assistance from the UN.
The UN representative said that the Islamist group Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham controls the province of Idlib and that the UN cannot yet organize the delivery of humanitarian aid from the territory controlled by the Bashar regime al-Assad.
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