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Turkey Targets Building Contractors as Earthquake Death Toll Passes 33,000

Turkey has earthquake-resistant construction codes that are rarely enforced.
OZAN KOSE / Contributor via Getty Images
OZAN KOSE / Contributor via Getty Images

Turkey is investigating more than 130 building contractors allegedly involved in shoddy construction after earthquakes in the region caused thousands of buildings to collapse while the death toll from the disaster surpassed 33,000 on Sunday.

Rescuers are combing through rubble after the death toll from Monday's earthquakes in southern Turkey and northern Syria hit 33,179 on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. The death toll is expected to rise as the chances of finding survivors diminishes by the hour.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 134 people are being investigated for their alleged involvement in construction that failed to withstand the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that was followed by more than 2,000 aftershocks, according to Turkey's emergency agency.

Three people have been arrested pending trial and seven were detained while another seven were prohibited from leaving Turkey, Bozdag said Sunday.

The Turkish Justice Ministry announced it is establishing an "Earthquake Crimes Investigation" to identify constructors responsible for the buildings that collapsed.

Turkey has earthquake-resistant construction codes that are rarely enforced.

An attorney for one of the arrested contractors suggested that the public was trying to find a scapegoat after the devastating quakes.

Most of the reported deaths have been in Turkey. Deaths in Syria's rebel-held areas reached 2,166, according to the rescue group the White Helmets, while in government-held areas the death toll is 1,387, but that number has not been updated in several days.

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