konya turkey, turkey dorm collapse, dorm collapse
Associated Press
Rescue workers search for possible survivors after a three-story dormitory housing
female students collapsed. (AP)

Three Arrested in Connection with Turkish Girls’ Dormitory Collapse

August 04, 2008 11:11 AM
by Anne Szustek
Three administrators of a girls’ dormitory near the central Turkish city of Konya are being held for “causing death through negligence” after the building’s collapse killed 18 residents.

30-Second Summary

School headmaster Hüseyin Çömlek, deputy headmaster Mehmet Semerci, and Mehmet Göktas, the head of the foundation that built the dormitory, the Balcilar Town Foundation for Aid to School and Course Students, are being held in Konya prison, near the village of Balcilar, where the dormitory was located.

The head of the local Civil Engineers Chamber, Ugur Ibrahim Altalay, told the Associated Press that the dormitory that collapsed Friday was unlicensed and 18 years old.

The concrete building housed some 40–45 girls aged 8–16, who were taking a summer vacation Koran course that had not been approved by the Diyanet, the Turkish state directorate of religion. The Turkish Daily News reports that the building was last inspected on May 29. Official reports show no mention that a girls’ Koranic course was being held there, yet residents of Balcilar were aware that religious instruction was occurring.

Mehmet Demirgül, Balcilar’s mayor, originally pointed to a gas canister explosion as the cause of the building collapse but later told the press that a leaking gas pipe set off the blast.

Merve Avci, one of the surviving students, told Turkish state wire service Anatolian News Agency that she and her teachers heard “a strange sound” before dawn prayers. After seeing a loose gas pipe, Avci was instructed to close the door and she returned to her room. Not much later, she saw flames shoot up from the basement.

Shoddy construction has been blamed for the collapse of at least four high-density residences over the past five years in the country—a problem exacerbated by Turkey’s extreme earthquake risk. Last year, two apartment buildings crashed in Istanbul; two people were killed in the first collapse. In 2003, 83 children died in the southeastern city of Bingöl when their dorm caved in. The following year, in Konya—the same province where the girls’ dorm collapsed Friday—92 people died in the crash of an 11-story apartment tower.

Some 70 percent of buildings in Turkey are unlicensed, meaning they did not get approval on their building code. Polat Gülkan, the director of Middle Eastern Technical University’s Disaster Management Center, told the Turkish Daily News in September 1999 about the building approval process in the country. “The body that creates the codes and the Development Law is the Ministry of Housing and Public Works. … The implementation of these codes and regulations is not the responsibility of this ministry but of the local governments, and the local governments are not responsible to the ministry. … That’s the primary reason why codes are enforced in a shoddy way.”

See AP coverage

Headline Links: Dormitory collapses near Konya, arrests made in connection

Background: Konya; recent building collapses in Turkey

Konya, Turkey
Recent building collapses in Turkey

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Whose Fault is It?’

Related Topic: The Diyanet


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