Turkey’s interior minister says the death toll from a collapsed apartment building in Istanbul has risen to 21.
Minister Suleyman Soylu spoke late Saturday, saying those who made “mistakes” would be held accountable. The eight-story building in the city’s Kartal district collapsed on Wednesday.
Rescue workers remain at the site and it is unclear how many more people are missing.
Thirteen people pulled from the rubble have been hospitalized and seven remain in intensive care. Chief Doctor Recep Demirhan says that two are in very serious condition, according to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency.
The collapsed building had 14 apartments, 43 registered residents and three businesses.
The building’s top three floors were constructed illegally, the state-run news agency Anadolu cited Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya as saying on Wednesday. Rescuers are continuing to search for people who could be trapped, state TV channel TRT News reported on Saturday.
“There are lots of lessons we need to learn from this incident,” Erdogan said after a visit to the hospital. There are very serious problems with illegally constructed buildings and the nation needs to support the government’s urban transformation initiative, he said, adding that “necessary” steps will be taken.
The government is drawing criticism for its so-called zoning amnesty, introduced last year and running through June, which has allowed the legal registration of about 13 million irregular or illegally constructed buildings. The residents of the collapsed building in Kartal had applied for the amnesty program, which doesn’t require applicants to prove their buildings are safe, the Haberturk newspaper reported on Thursday.
“The disaster in Kartal is a result of the government’s wrong zoning policies,” Emin Koramaz, chairman of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, said in a statement on its website on Thursday. Koramaz called for the government to immediately end the initiative, which “vindicates all practices that compromise the safety of life and property.” MDT/Agencies