Erdogan ‘epicentre’ of earthquake disaster says opposition figure as death toll passes 50,000

Erdogan ‘epicentre’ of earthquake disaster says opposition figure as death toll passes 50,000
Erdogan speaking in the quake-hit Islahiye district of Gaziantep, southern Turkey, on February 21. / Turkish Presidency.
By bne IntelIiNews February 22, 2023

The epicentre of Turkey’s great earthquake tragedy can be found in the Ankara presidential palace, the official residence of the man responsible for the sheer scale of the disaster, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

So said Meral Aksener, leader of Turkey’s opposition IYI Party, as Turks remained angry at how the quakes’ “pancaking” of poor-quality high-rise housing, permitted by officials with the Erdogan administration’s blessing, was the big factor in producing such a shocking death toll—43,556 people and counting as of the end of February 22, with another 6,600 fatalities confirmed so far in Syria, taking the overall figure to more than 50,000.

Bruising words from Aksener (Credit: Yildiz Yazicloglu, VoA, public domain).

“It is true that earthquakes are natural disasters, but the person who is responsible for this natural disaster ending in a tragedy is Recep Tayyip Erdogan. … the epicentre of this great tragedy caused by incompetent people is Bestepe,” said Aksener—referring to the Ankara neighbourhood where the presidential palace is located—in remarks made at an IYI party meeting reported on February 22 by Turkish Minute citing local reports.

Aksener, who statyed silent in the first few days that followed the February 6 twin earthquakes, the first of a magnitude of 7.8 and the second measured at 7.5, has since hit out fiercely at Erdogan. In her latest comments, she also said it was his “one-man” system that was responsible for the vast devastation caused by the earthquakes, which in Turkey struck 11 provinces across the country’s southeast and south. The “one-man regime” in Turkey, not subject to proper checks and balances and packed with cronies, produces only crisis and disasters, continued Aksener.

On February 9, Erdogan said during a visit to quake-struck Pazarcik, a town in Turkey’s Kahramanmaras province, that the disaster was part of destiny. “What happens, happens, this is part of fate’s plan.”

The remark was an echo of a comment he made last year after an explosion at a state-run coal mine killed 41 miners. Erdogan told mining families that it was “fate’s design”.

Aksener also took aim at Erdogan for such remarks, saying it was reckless and dishonest to present the earthquakes as “destiny’s plan” in an attempt at masking the failure of the government to take necessary precautions in case of such a natural disaster.

Erdogan, in power for two decades, has also said that it is not possible for a country to prepare for such a huge catastrophe.

Turkey is due to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections in either May or June, but there is heavy speculation that Erdogan will cite the state of emergency declared across the earthquake zone in moving to postpone the polls.