At least 120 people died after last month’s massive earthquakes in Turkey’s Hatay province because doctors and other healthcare workers had to evacuate a severely damaged hospital, leaving intensive care patients trapped in the building, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service (DW Türkçe) reported, citing sources on the ground.
Accusations of negligence have been raised following the devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey on Feb. 6.
The disaster claimed the lives of more than 45,000 people, with 22,000 dying in Hatay province alone.
According to a report by DW Türkçe’s Alican Uludağ, a state hospital in Hatay was so severely damaged by the earthquake that all staff had to leave the building. Patients in the intensive care unit were trapped, and at least 120 died due to a lack of treatment.
The Hatay Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation into allegations of negligence when the families of these patients filed criminal complaints against those they deem responsible.
Another incident DW Türkçe covered in the report concerned at least 10 people who died due to carbon monoxide poisoning because they were forced to sleep in a greenhouse instead of a tent because not enough tents were distributed to the victims.
The lack of tents led hundreds of earthquake victims to seek shelter in greenhouses that had been built for agricultural purposes. Unfortunately, the stoves that were placed in the greenhouses for heating emitted toxic gasses that killed earthquake victims.
The report also cited the removal of the rubble of the Renaissance residence in Hatay, which collapsed in the earthquake, as possible negligence that claimed lives. Uludağ’s sources claim that due to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Hatay on Feb. 8, the provincial administration instructed workers to “remove the rubble” and suspended search and rescue operations, and the rubble was removed with construction equipment. As a result, many people trapped under the rubble were reportedly injured or killed, and some were decapitated while the rubble was removed with an excavator.
Many say the delayed search and rescue operations contributed to the high death toll. A large number of victims died under the rubble reportedly because they were rescued too late. According to an official who was involved in the investigation of the bodies in Hatay province, rigor mortis had not yet set in in some of them, indicating that they had just died. Some of the bodies had no wounds, leading the official to believe that they died under the rubble either from a heart attack, starvation or dehydration.