Turkish quake trial for hotel collapse that killed school volleyball team

Turkish quake trial for hotel collapse that killed school volleyball team By A Robin - January 03, 2024
Relatives of the volleyball team members are at court in Adiyaman

Relatives of the volleyball team members are at court in Adiyaman

The first criminal trial over last year's earthquake in Turkey has begun, focusing on the collapse of a hotel in which 72 people died.

The hotel in the south-eastern city of Adiyaman was hosting a school volleyball team from Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus and a group of tourist guides when the quake hit last year.

Eleven people have been charged with breaching construction rules.

More than 50,000 people died in Turkey and Syria in the 6 February quake.

Some 160,000 buildings collapsed or were badly damaged, leaving 1.5 million people homeless.

The Turkish government said a few weeks later that hundreds of people were under investigation and nearly 200 people had been arrested, including construction contractors and property owners.

A group of 39 people, including boys and girls, teachers and parents from Famagusta Turkish Education College, had travelled to Adiyaman for a volleyball tournament when the earthquake struck.

They had picked the seven-storey Isias Grand hotel, along with as many as 40 tourist guides who were there for training.

The Isias was one of Adiyaman's best-known hotels but it collapsed in moments.

Four parents were the only survivors from the volleyball group. They managed to dig themselves out of the rubble, while 35 others including all the children were killed.

Authorities from their home city of Famagusta eventually sent rescue teams to recover the bodies, and survivors complained that Turkish officials had not taken action.

Relatives of those who died travelled to Adiyaman to attend the start of the trial on Wednesday, calling for harsh sentences for the 11 accused as well as for charges to be laid against the Turkish officials who licensed the hotel.

The hotel had been operating since 2001 but, according to scientific analysis, gravel and sand from the local river had been mixed with other construction materials to form the columns supporting the hotel.

Extra floors were added to the hotel in 2016 without the requisite permits, the indictment said.

"They did not build a hotel, they built a mass grave. As a mother I cannot tolerate this," said Pervin Aksoy Ipekcioglu, whose 14-year-old daughter Serin was killed.

"The culture and tourism ministry conducted many inspections on the hotel and gave it four stars. Then it collapsed and killed 72 people. Whoever is responsible for this should be charged," she told BBC Turkish.

The sheer scale of building collapses in the 6 February earthquake prompted widespread criticism of the Turkish government for encouraging a construction boom while failing to enforce building regulations, which had been tightened after earlier disasters.

"Whoever is responsible and has signed off on the Isias Hotel, you are to blame for what happened," said Safiye Cevik, whose 14-year-old daughter Nehir died.

"You should be tried for killing with intent, justice will be served," she told Cypriot media.

If convicted, the 11 defendants face prison terms of between two years and eight months to more than 22 years.


By A Robin - January 03, 2024

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