Truth over Turkey’s earthquake death toll yet to be told says lawmaker

Truth over Turkey’s earthquake death toll yet to be told says lawmaker
Wreckage of a collapsed building in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey. There are fears that the bodies of a great number of earthquake victims are yet to be recovered from under rubble across the quake zone. / VoA, public domain.
By bne IntelIiNews March 10, 2023

The truth over how many people perished in Turkey’s major earthquake disaster is yet to be told, according to an opposition lawmaker who has called on the country’s government to share “the correct figures”.

Officials by March 9 had recorded in excess of 46,000 deaths attributed to the February 6 twin earthquake tragedy and subsequent aftershocks that struck 11 provinces of southern and southeastern Turkey, while more than 7,000 quake fatalities have been confirmed in northern Syria, but, referring to the Turkish figure, Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Muzeyyen Sevkin told ANKA news agency that the death toll did not reflect reality.

Muzeyyen Sevkin (Credit: Instagram page).

Sevkin said that many in the earthquake zone were still searching for missing family members and that the authorities’ missing persons database was not included in the official number in any way.  

Following a visit to the Turkish province worst hit by the earthquakes, Hatay, Sevkin said: “When we look at the severe rubble, the number of demolished buildings and the missing persons reports, we have the suspicion that the officially reported figure of 46,000 people killed should in fact be much more [by now].

“What the government needs to do is to remove the rubble as fast as it can, allow people their funerals and share with the citizens the correct figures.”

The day after the two major earthquakes—7.8 and 7.5 in magnitude, respectively—hit, The Economist reported earthquake expert Ovgun Ahmet Ercan as estimating that “180,000 people or more may be trapped under the rubble, nearly all of them dead”.

In the month since the devastating disaster, the Turkish and Syrian governments have failed to respond to numerous requests from media for missing persons estimates.

Sevkin noted that the number of missing persons reports was on the rise, while poster appeals from relatives and friends for information on missing persons were stuck to noticeboards and walls all over the earthquake region.

The lawmaker also complained that there were citizens still “unable to access tents, clean water, clean toilets, underwear and circumstances for healthy accommodation”.

As Turkey heads for presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, responsibility for the size of the shocking death toll caused by the disaster will remain a hot topic.

The opposition have accused president of two decades Recep Tayyip Erdogan of failing to prepare the earthquake-prone country for a disaster of this magnitude throughout his lengthy time in power, even though many experts said it was entirely predictable. Erdogan and his ruling AKP party are also accused of presiding over corruption, ineptitude and laxity that resulted in construction companies putting up huge numbers of shoddy buildings vulnerable to being “pancaked” by a major quake.

Erdogan, who has even been described as the “epicentre” of the disaster, has claimed that building standards in Turkey have actually improved during his time in power.

In his first reactions to the disaster, Erdogan blamed “fate’s plan” for the earthquakes and their impact, saying: “What happens, happens, this is part of fate’s plan.”

The UNDP this week estimated that the damage to Turkey caused by the disaster will exceed $100bn.