21 survive Turkey building collapse; no deaths reported

ISTANBUL • Twenty-one people survived being buried under heavy debris when a two-storey building collapsed in eastern Turkey, the government said, with no fatalities reported as search operations ended early yesterday.

The incident occurred on Tuesday afternoon on a busy street in the city of Malatya, as residents filled shops on their way home from work.

"Search and rescue operations in the collapsed Malatya building have come to an end. Thank God there are no victims," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in a tweet yesterday.

Earlier, Interior Ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli said rescue workers had pulled 13 people from the rubble, while eight others managed to escape on their own.

Five of those rescued were still hospitalised, but their injuries were not life-threatening, regional governor Aydin Barus said.

CCTV footage of the collapse showed the building suddenly crumbling, with a huge cloud of dust shooting skywards. A car parked in front of the building sped off while passers-by rushed to help those trapped under the rubble.

Witnesses and media reports said the building crumbled during planned renovation work that resulted in damage to one of the walls separating two of the restaurants on the ground floor. "I heard a crack first and then the building collapsed. A cloud of dust emerged. It was like judgment day," witness Turhan Cobanoglu told HaberTurk television.

The Turkish government's disaster and emergency management agency said 260 rescue workers were deployed to the scene, which was lit up to allow efforts to continue through the night.

Television images showed rescuers using construction diggers and their bare hands to clear out the heavy slabs of concrete and mounds of wood.

The cause of the collapse remained unclear, but Mr Barus pointed the finger at the work being done on the building.

The building's owner and three people who were carrying out the work have been taken into custody, according to Malatya's prosecutor's office.

Malatya is a large city in the eastern Anatolia region of Turkey.

The country has been rocked by a series of disasters this year - including a wave of wildfires and two flash floods - that claimed some 100 lives.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under fierce political pressure when it emerged in August that Turkey no longer had functioning fire-fighting planes.

The deadly flash floods wiped out houses in mountain valleys and sparked questions over why officials were approving construction licences for regions prone to violent weather events.

Mr Erdogan's office said he had placed calls to the local governor and mayor to receive a personal update about the rescue work.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2021, with the headline 21 survive Turkey building collapse; no deaths reported. Subscribe