Turkey’s president Erdogan acknowledges ‘shortcomings’ in government’s response to earthquake
The President of Turkey acknowledged “shortcomings” in his country’s response to the world’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade as hope dwindled that more survivors might emerge from the rubble of toppled buildings.
With the death toll in Syria and Turkey now standing at 15,000, Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the hard-hit Hatay province to meet survivors on Wednesday. More than 3,000 people died in the area and the earthquake destroyed entire neighbourhoods.
Residents there have criticised the government’s response to the disaster, saying rescuers were slow to arrive with food, tents and equipment to search for trapped survivors.
“Of course, there are shortcomings. The conditions are clear to see. It’s not possible to be ready for a disaster like this,” Erdogan said, pointing to the weather as one of the reasons behind long wait times.
The earthquake also destroyed the runway at Hatay’s airport, further disrupting the response.
“It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,” he said. “We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.”
He added, “by taking every necessary step, we will carry out a disaster response that won’t leave anyone under the rubble and will not leave anyone to suffer.”
He also hit back at critics, saying “dishonourable people” were spreading “lies and slander” about the government’s actions.
Residents of Antakya tried to dig through rubble with their hands
Meanwhile, residents in the Turkish city of Antakya waited on Wednesday for their loved ones to be rescued, with teams arriving to help days after the initial collapse of their apartments.
A group of Turkish and Syrian residents kept warm by standing by fires lit in front of the debris that was once their homes.
Serap Arslan, a 45-year-old survivor, said her apartment building, which contained 24 flats, collapsed in the quake and that many people, including her mother and brother, remained trapped under the rubble.
“Only today the construction machines started to work,” she said. Arslan added that the city’s residents tried to clear some of the debris themselves but did not have the right equipment.
Abdulqader Barakat, a Syrian survivor, called for more help from the international community.
“There are four, we took two out and two are still [inside] for hours,” he said.
“We hear their voices and they are reacting. We need [rescue] squads, I appeal to the whole world, and the international community, to help us rescue the children.”