Enver Karakaya still can hardly put his grief into words. His 14-year-old daughter stayed at a hotel in Adiyaman, Turkey, from February 5 to 6. “We went insane when we saw on Twitter that the hotel had collapsed. We booked a flight but all flights were cancelled,” he tells DW. It was the North Cyprus government that organized a special flight for the families and rescue workers. “We only arrived on site in the evening. We saw the collapsed building. But no rescue work was going on.”
Karakaya’s daughter Selin was part of a children’s volleyball team from Famagusta in northern Cyprus and actually wanted to play in a tournament in Turkey. She and all her team members died when the Isaias Hotel in Adiyaman collapsed on February 6th.
The hotel made a “good impression” in the photos, which is why it was chosen by the parents. “We thought that we were leaving our children in safe hands,” reports Enver Karakaya. But then it turned out that what was actually an uninhabitable building had been refurbished and turned into a hotel. “We sent our children to the grave,” says Karakaya through tears.
Northern Cypriots are outraged
Not only the parents of the children killed are outraged by the events. “The whole of Cyprus is in shock, and there is an atmosphere of sadness in Famagusta,” Hasan Esendagli, president of the Cyprus-Turkish Bar Association, told DW not directly affected by the losses.”
The country’s parliament is also dealing with the death of the northern Cypriot children: an investigative commission was even set up. MP Dogus Derya from the Turkish Republican Party (CTP) told DW that Parliament would do everything possible to hold those responsible accountable.
Bad building material
Evidence is now mounting that regulations were not followed when the hotel was built. A study report by the East Mediterranean University in Famagusta, available to DW, says river pebbles and sand were mixed into the concrete to save costs. “The rubble found on site was carefully analyzed. It was found that the quality of the concrete was demonstrably low,” the report said. The building was built more than 30 years ago as a residential building, but was later converted into a commercial building and over time was expanded by two floors. This type of building extension is a common practice in Turkey’s construction industry.
The report concludes: “The building, whose base and pillars were originally designed for five floors, was not built in the right way. The floor extension was a serious mistake. The building would have collapsed even with earthquakes of less magnitude.”
Images from the investigation report: Inferior building materials were used in the construction of the hotel
Meanwhile, the hotel management is under investigation. Three hotel operators have now been arrested. The Bozkurt family, to which all three arrested persons belong, is actually known for having good relations with the Turkish government. One of those arrested, Mehmet Fatih Bozkurt, was elected to the Adiyaman municipal council as an AKP politician in 2014. So far, the Turkish authorities have arrested 131 people in connection with the earthquake; Main reason: botched construction.
“Sandcastles are built”
Northern Cyprus MP Derya blames the Turkish state for the earthquake. They have learned nothing from the mistakes of the past. “After the great earthquake of 1999 in Turkey, some building contractors were made scapegoats and sentenced. We don’t think it’s enough that people are doing this again. Our fight is for the political order that allows buildings to be built like sandcastles and collapse.” , according to Derya.
Cyprus is a de facto divided island in the Mediterranean Sea. The “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, or Northern Cyprus for short, is recognized only by Turkey in the world. However, North Cyprus has its own political administration, its own government and independent social institutions such as schools or hospitals. It works closely with the Turkish government in Ankara, but is not entirely dependent on it.
Divided Island: The border crossing between the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Mourning also for 30 travel guides
In addition to the children from Cyprus, the quake also killed 30 Turkish tour guides who were staying at the hotel for an educational trip.
The Turkish tourism association TUREB also filed a complaint against the hotel because of her death. TUREB managing director Hakan Ekinlioglu told DW that they wanted to work for justice: “We are in close contact with the families. They also want those responsible to be punished. Our lawyers will follow the process closely.”
Collaboration: Burak Ünveren