UN fears Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll could double

Rescuers on Sunday in Turkey pulled more survivors from the rubble of Monday’s earthquakes, but hopes were fading fast in Turkey and Syria that many more would be found.

Already, by Sunday morning the death toll had passed 28,000.

On Saturday, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths said after arriving in Turkey that he expects the death toll to at least double in what has already been billed one of the top 10 deadliest earthquakes ever.
In addition to Monday’s 7.7 magnitude a second 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the southern part of Turkey the same day and Turkey’s disaster authority (AFD) said the area had experienced more than 2,000 aftershocks between Monday and Saturday.

As anger grows around the quality of the buildings, of which over 6,000 collapsed, the Justice Ministry on Sunday demanded that contractors, along with other responsible persons, of the buildings that collapsed be identified quickly and measures should be taken to prevent them from fleeing the country.
The ministry has also ordered a full investigation into the disaster.

Anadolu news agency reported that the ministry has ordered the chief public prosecutor’s offices, in the 10 provinces affected by the earthquakes, to establish “earthquake crime investigation offices.”

“Necessary investigations will be carried out immediately for those who are determined to be responsible, and protection measures will be taken against the possibility of escaping and blackening of evidence,” it added.

Meanwhile, a total of 131 suspects were identified in investigations so far, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay told Anadolu, adding that 113 of them were detained, while one was arrested while trying to flee the country.

Tens of millions impacted
Nearly 26 million people have been affected by the earthquake and dozens of hospitals are damaged, the World Health Organization (WHO) said as it launched a flash appeal on Saturday for $42.8 million to cope with immediate, towering health needs.

Turkey’s disaster agency said more than 32,000 people from Turkish organizations are working on search-and-rescue efforts. There are also 8,294 international rescuers.