Twelve arrested by Turkish authorities over earthquake building collapses

Turkey - Necati Savas/Shutterstock
Turkey - Necati Savas/Shutterstock

Twelve people have been detained by the Turkish authorities over collapsed buildings in the south-eastern provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa.

More arrests are expected in the wake of the disaster that has killed more than 25,000 people, sparking significant public anger over the poor quality of housing – much of which was not built to tremor regulations.

At least one contractor involved in the construction of a building in Gaziantep was arrested in part of the operation on Saturday.

Turkey’s justice ministry has ordered prosecutors in the 10 southern provinces worst affected by the disaster to open special “earthquake crimes investigation offices”, raising the prospect of further arrests.

On Friday, police officers arrested the owner of a high-rise block of luxury apartments that toppled when the quake hit the Hatay province. The man was detained at an airport in Istanbul as he attempted to flee the country, according to reports by the AFP news agency.

Austrian forces search for survivors in Hatay, Turkey - Umit Bektas/Reuters
Austrian forces search for survivors in Hatay, Turkey - Umit Bektas/Reuters

It came as the Austrian army suspended its aid mission in Turkey citing security concerns after “clashes” in the country.

A similar decision was taken in Germany by the Federal Agency for Technical Relief and ISAR Germany, which specialises in helping victims of natural disasters, according to a spokesman.

Michael Bauer, a spokesman for the Austrian ministry of defence, said the country’s forces were operating in “an increasingly difficult security situation” and would continue their operations once the environment became safe.

Clashes between unidentified groups have been reported in the wake of the series of devastating earthquakes earlier this week, which have so far claimed the lives of over 24,000 people.

Austrian troops are reportedly sheltering in a base camp alongside other international organisations.

Rescue teams on Saturday pulled a family of five, who survived inside their collapsed home for five days, to safety.

They first rescued the mother and daughter, Havva and Fatmagul Aslan, from among the debris in the town of Nurdag, in Gaziantep province.

They later reached the father, Hasan Aslan, but he insisted that his other daughter, Zeynep, and son, Saltik Bugra, be saved first. As Mr Aslan was brought out, rescuers chanted: “God is great.”

The dramatic rescue of the family after 129 hours under the rubble means nine people have been rescued so far on Saturday, despite diminishing hopes amid freezing temperatures.

A collapsed apartment building in Adiyaman - Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A collapsed apartment building in Adiyaman - Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The rescues bring glimmers of joy amid overwhelming devastation days after Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake saw thousands of buildings collapse and left millions of people homeless.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the chief of the World Health Organisation, arrived on Saturday in Syria’s quake-stricken city of Aleppo. Mr Tedros said he had brought “emergency medical supplies of around 37 metric tonnes”.