Staggering Death Toll in Turkey, Syria Earthquake Surpasses 33,000

More than 33,000 people have perished in the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria last week, according to the latest government data.

Turkish authorities have launched a crackdown on those potentially responsible for the poor quality construction of the collapsed buildings.

Calamity with Unspeakable Aftermath

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which hit Southeastern Turkey and Northwestern Syria on February 6, 2023, had 7.5-magnitude aftershocks that added to the devastation. Its epicenter was near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which has over two million people.

As per the latest figures, as of Sunday afternoon, local time, the earthquake has killed 29,605 people in Turkey, AP and The Daily Mail reported.

In Syria, the tremor claimed at least 3,553 lives, including 2,166 in the areas held by Syrian rebels and at least 1,387 in the government-controlled parts – though the latter figure is several days old.

Additional data shows some 85,000 people have been injured, 1.3 million have been displaced, and the earthquake affected an area inhabited by 24 million. At least 6,589 buildings have collapsed in the tremor and the aftershocks.

While the death toll is already beyond the wildest expectations, it is expected to keep growing as more and more corpses are getting recovered from under the rubble on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border.

Speaking on Sky News, UK Development Minister, Andrew Mitch, declared the situation in the quake-stricken areas was “bleak beyond belief.” Martin Griffiths, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, stated the bodies hadn’t really been “counted” yet and the total death toll could surpass 50,000.

Turkey Cracks Down on Developers, Some Have ‘Clear Conscience’

As social media users from around the world were stunned to see video footage of collapsing buildings in Turkey’s Gaziantep and its region, the Turkish authorities are already targeting 131 individuals accused of involvement in “illegal and shoddy” construction methods.

These methods led entire developments to crumble like a house of cards when the tremor hit.

Bekir Bozdag, Turkey’s Justice Minister, said on Sunday that the low-quality construction added tremendously to the scale of devastation caused by the Gaziantep earthquake.

The report points out while Turkey’s construction protocols meet earthquake safety standards, they rarely get “enforced.” This has resulted in thousands of buildings getting “pancaked” or “toppled.”

Besides developers, those who have been arrested include two men who removed columns in a Gaziantep province building in order to create extra space. Naturally, the building was among the ones that collapsed in the earthquake.

While the Turkish authorities are investigating 131 people for the building collapses, only three are pending trial; seven others have been arrested and seven more were banned from leaving the country.

On Sunday, the authorities caught two contractors at Istanbul Airport trying to flee to neighboring Georgia. They are believed to be liable for the collapse of several buildings in the town of Adiyaman.

One of the two men, Yuvuz Karakus, said he built 44 buildings, and four of them collapsed. He declared he did all “according to the rules” and his conscience was “clear.”

This article appeared in The State Today and has been published here with permission.