Turkish authorities arrest the developer of a block that toppled in an earthquake

Turkish authorities have arrested the developer of a large residential building that collapsed from this week’s devastating earthquake, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faces growing dissatisfaction with the quality of construction in the affected region.

A developer building luxury housing in the hard-hit province of Hatay in southern Turkey was arrested on Friday at Istanbul Airport en route to Montenegro, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Prosecutors in Istanbul ordered the arrest after finding his flight plans, the agency reported.

The move comes after Turkish politicians vowed this week to investigate poor construction quality following the earthquake that killed more than 21,000 people in Turkey and thousands more in neighboring Syria. Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said earlier this week that “all those found negligent and at fault will be held accountable,” according to Anadolu Agency.

On Saturday, Erdoğan promised to construct hundreds of thousands of earthquake-proof buildings in massive reconstruction efforts within a year.

“We will not leave any of our citizens, dead or alive, underground
Rubble. Then we quickly start clearing the debris and rebuilding
Activities. We plan to rebuild hundreds of thousands
Houses of buildings and infrastructure, or rather to erect
again our cities destroyed by the earthquake,” Erdoğan said.
“God willing, we will complete the construction and restoration work
within a year.”

Around 14,000 rescuers make a final attempt to find survivors five days after the earthquake. Some experts have urged the government not to rush to clean up the rubble to gather evidence against property developers.

Civil engineers have said many construction projects in south-eastern Turkey have been carried out with insufficient protection against ground tremors in a region known to be prone to earthquakes.

Huge nationwide construction projects have been a hallmark of Erdoğan’s two decades at the helm of Turkey, but opponents have criticized repeated amnesties for poor construction quality and a penchant for awarding contracts to loyalists.

Selim Koru, an analyst at Ankara-based think tank Tepav, said he was skeptical there would be broad reckoning for the construction sector given its importance in Turkey, although some “bad apples” would likely be prosecuted. According to official figures, construction accounts for around 5 percent of Turkey’s economic output.

Erdoğan is facing increasing criticism for both construction problems and the government’s response to the disaster. Some say it took far too long for rescue workers to get to the hardest-hit areas.

The Turkish president lashed out at critics on Saturday, accusing them of undermining national unity.

All Turkish universities will switch to online teaching for the remainder of the academic year so that their dormitories can be used as emergency shelters for those who have lost their homes, he added.

On Friday, Erdoğan conceded that the rescue was not progressing quickly enough because of the vast affected area, bad weather and rescuers and their families affected by the quake, the worst natural disaster to hit Turkey in almost a century.

The earthquake came in the midst of a hotly contested election campaign that many political analysts are calling the toughest since Erdoğan came to power in 2003.

Even before the disaster, his approval ratings had suffered a severe slump due to the cost of living crisis, which was exacerbated by his government’s unorthodox economic policies.

https://www.ft.com/content/a8419771-6cd9-4fec-8075-62c7e604aca7 Turkish authorities arrest the developer of a block that toppled in an earthquake

Adam Bradshaw

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