Justice minister says Turkey launched probe into hundreds of people after quakes

Investigations have been launched against more than 600 people over the buildings that collapsed in Turkey’s catastrophic earthquakes earlier this month that left tens of thousands dead, according to the country’s justice minister.

Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Saturday that 184 of the 612 suspects had been jailed pending trial. Those in custody included construction contractors and building owners or managers, he stated in televised comments from a coordination centre in Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey.

“The detection of evidence in the buildings continues as a basis for criminal investigation,” Bozdag added.

The aftermath of the 7.8- and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes on February 6, which led to more than 44,000 deaths in southern Turkey and more than 5,500 deaths in northern Syria, has seen many Turks question the structural integrity of many of the 173,000 buildings that collapsed or were seriously damaged.

Opposition parties have accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration of failing to enforce building regulations.

The mayor of a town close to the epicentre of the earthquake was detained as part of an investigation into collapsed buildings, the local media reported on Saturday.

Okkes Kavak, who heads the district of Nurdagi in Gaziantep province and is a member of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), is said to have failed to ensure construction inspections were carried out.

AFAD, Turkey’s disaster management agency, announced that 9,470 aftershocks had hit the region affected by the quake.

“This will continue for a long time … we expect these aftershocks to last for at least two years,” AFAD General Manager Orhan Tatar noted in a media briefing in Ankara.

He added a 5.3-magnitude quake that hit Bor, a town approximately about 245km west of the February 6 epicentre, was considered “independent” of earlier earthquakes.

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