Shoddy builders accused over quake deaths

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Turkey’s prime minister accused shoddy construction firms of murder after so many buildings collapsed in the country’s deadly earthquake.

Three days after the devastating quake in eastern Turkey, two teachers 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 the town of Ercis in the province of Van after searchers removed bodies and found there were no other survivors.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had not learned enough from past earthquakes. The 7.2 tremor on Sunday killed at least 460 people.

“When we look at the wreckage, we see how the material used is of bad quality,” Mr 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.”

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.

About 2,000 buildings collapsed and about 1,350 people were injured. The fact that the quake hit in the daytime, when many people were out of their homes, averted an even worse disaster. A school in Ercis crumbled, leaving only its near-intact roof flat on the ground but the fact the quake hit on a Sunday meant none of the 800 pupils was injured there.

Men formed a long line for tents in Ercis, but there was chaos elsewhere.

The head of the Turkish Red Crescent organization, Ahmet Lutfi Akar, said 17 lorries were looted before aid could be distributed.