Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Turkish PM faults shoddy construction

Turkey's leader said Wednesday that shoddy construction contributed to the high casualty toll in Turkey's earthquake, and he compared the alleged negligence of some officials and builders to murder.
Three days after the devastating quake in eastern Turkey, a teacher and a university student were rescued from ruined buildings, but searchers said hopes of finding anyone else alive were diminishing. Excavators began clearing debris from some collapsed buildings in Ercis after searchers removed bodies and determined there were no other survivors.
In the capital, Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had not learned enough from past earthquakes that toppled poorly constructed buildings, trapping people inside. The 7.2-magnitude quake on Sunday killed at least 460 people.
"When we look at the wreckage, we see how the material used is of bad quality," Erdogan said. "We see that people pay the price for concrete that virtually turned to sand, or for weakened concrete blocks on the ground floors. Municipalities, constructors and supervisors should now see that their negligence amounts to murder."
He said: "Despite all previous disasters, we see that the appeals were not heeded."
Desperate survivors fought over aid and blocked aid shipments while a powerful aftershock on Tuesday ignited widespread panic that triggered a prison riot in a nearby provincial city. Health officials warned of increase in cases of diarrhea, especially among children.
"At the moment, we don't have any other sign of life," said rescuer Riza Birkan. "We are concentrating on recovering bodies."
Gozde Bahar, a 27-year-old English-language teacher was pulled out of a ruined building on Wednesday with injuries nearly three days after the 7.2-magnitude quake. Her mother watched the rescue operation in tears. The state-run Anatolia news agency said her heart stopped at a field hospital but doctors managed to revive her.
Earlier on Wednesday, rescuers also pulled out 18-year old university student Eyup Erdem, using tiny cameras mounted on sticks to locate him. They broke into applause as he emerged from the wreckage.
The two, both rescued in Ercis — the worst hit area in the temblor that also rattled Iran and Armenia — were the last to be pulled alive.
Health Ministry official Seraceddin Com said some 40 people were pulled out alive from collapsed buildings on Tuesday.
They included a 2-week-old baby girl brought out half-naked but alive from the wreckage of an apartment building two days after the quake. Her mother and grandmother were also rescued, but her father was missing.
The pockets of jubilation were however, tempered by many more discoveries of bodies by thousands of aid workers.
Gerald Rockenshaub, disaster response manager at the World Health Organization, said the first 48 to 72 hours are crucial for rescues and the chances of finding survivors decrease significantly after that. People can survive without food for a week or so, but having access to water is critical, especially for the elderly and infants, he said.
On Wednesday, health officials said they had detected an increase in diarrhea cases, especially among the children, and urged survivors to drink bottled water until authorities can determine whether the tap water may be contaminated.
With thousands left homeless or too afraid to return to damaged houses, Turkey said it would accept international aid offers, even from Israel, with which it has had strained relations. The country said it would need prefabricated homes to house survivors during the winter. Israel offered assistance despite a rift between the two countries over last year's Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists.
Some 2,000 buildings collapsed and some 1,350 people were injured. The fact that the quake hit in daytime, when many people were out of their homes, averted an even worse disaster. Some 800 students at a school in Ercis — that crumbled, leaving only its near-intact roof flat on the ground — were probably saved because the quake hit on a Sunday.
Close to 500 aftershocks have rattled the area, according to Turkey's Kandilli seismology center. A strong aftershock on Tuesday sent residents rushing into the streets in panic while sparking a riot that lasted several hours by prisoners in the city of Van, 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Ercis. The U.S. Geological Survey put that temblor at a magnitude of 5.7.
On Wednesday, authorities transferred some 350 of the inmates to jails in other cities after(...)More.

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