Earthquake response should have been faster: Erdogan

ISTANBUL: The response of search and rescue teams to the massive earthquakes in the country’s south was not as fast as the government wanted, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. “Although we have the largest search and rescue team in the world right now, it is a reality that search efforts are not as fast as we wanted them to be,” Erdogan said, adding that the death toll in the country had climbed to 18,991.

Previously Erdogan has accepted that the first response was slow immediately after the quake due to bad weather, damaged roads and the vast area impacting 10 provinces in the country.

Some residents in the worst hit areas complained that no emergency workers were on the ground in the crucial first hours after the quake, a charge opposition politicians have picked up on, blaming Erdogan’s government.

Erdogan said search and rescue continued with teams joining efforts from all over the world after 94 countries offered help.

Some 24.4 million people in Syria and Turkiye have been affected, according to Turkish officials and the United Nations, in an area spanning 450 km (280 miles) from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east. In Syria, people were killed as far south as Hama, 250 km from the epicentre.

Speaking in Adiyaman province, which was also hit by the earthquakes, Erdogan said some people were robbing markets and attacking businesses, adding that a state of emergency declared in the area will allow the state to impose necessary penalties.

Evacuations from the area continued. Due to the large number of damaged buildings, tent cities have been set up by authorities to house hundreds of thousands left without home in temperatures below 0 Celsius.

After visiting displaced people sheltered in tents, Erdogan said if people preferred to move from the impacted cities the government would pay their rents for a year.

“We will rebuild these (damaged) buildings within one year and will hand them back to citizens. While we do that we will pay the rent of citizens who do not want to stay in tents,” Erdogan said. —Agencies