Wire Service
3 minute read
10 Nov 2021
2:02 am

At least 10 missing in Turkey building collapse


Barus urged local residents and reporters gathered at the scene to keep their distance to help rescuers detect signs of life.

This handout picture released by Turkey's IHH humanitarian aid group on November 9, 2021, shows members of rescue services as they work at the site of a collapsed building in the town of Battalgazi, in Malatya province, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of the Syrian border. - At least 13 people were injured on November 9, 2021, and 10 others feared trapped under debris when two-storey building housing restaurants and a coffee shop collapsed in eastern Turkey. (Photo by Handout / IHH humanitarian aid group / AFP)

A two-storey building packed with shoppers and diners collapsed in eastern Turkey on Tuesday, burying at least 10 people under heavy debris.

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

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 ground floor restaurants.

“I heard a crack first and then the building collapsed. A cloud of dust emerged. It was like judgement day,” witness Turhan Cobanoglu told HaberTurk television.

Ambulances rushed 13 people to hospital as rescuers searched for signs of life under piles of debris spilling across one of Malatya’s main thoroughfares.

Officials issued contradictory reports about how many people were believed to be inside the various restaurants and shops when the building crumbled at 4:50 pm.

Local mayor Osman Guder told HaberTurk television that between 20 and 25 were believed to still be trapped inside.

Malatya’s main opposition CHP party chairman Enver Kiraz put the number trapped at up to 30.

“On the first floor, there was a chicken restaurant, a dried nuts seller and bakery. And on the second floor there was a coffee house,” Kiraz told AFP by telephone.

“It is a very busy street. As far as I know, some of the people were injured while passing by the building.”

But HaberTurk later reported that only 10 people remained unaccounted for.

Regional governor Aydin Barus said two of the 13 injured people taken to hospital required intensive care while three were discharged after escaping with bumps and bruises.

– Call for silence –

Barus urged local residents and reporters gathered at the scene to keep their distance to help rescuers detect signs of life.

“The search and rescue teams need silence to be able to hear,” said in televised comments.

Television images showed rescuers using construction diggers and their bare hands to clear out the heavy slabs of concrete and mounds of wood, under bright lights installed as the night set in.

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

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.

Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said the state and regional authorities had fully mobilised in the latest search and rescue mission.

“Our prayers and hearts are with our Malatya brothers and sisters,” Altun tweeted.

Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader also placed calls to the local governor and mayor to receive a personal update about the rescue work.