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Opposition leader orders inquiry into party mayors in earthquake-stricken city

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The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party has ordered an inquiry into four mayors from his party in the earthquake-stricken province of Hatay to determine if they played any role in the vast devastation in the city, which was hit by several temblors this month, the Birgün daily reported.

Hatay was among the 11 provinces hit hardest by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake in the early morning hours of Feb. 6 and later a magnitude-7.5 quake the same day that have claimed the lives of at least 45,000 people in Turkey and parts of Syria.

The city was struck by two other earthquakes on Monday, registering magnitude 6.4 and 5.8, which caused further destruction in the city and claimed six more lives.

Amid calls asking the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which has been ruling the country as a single-party government since 2002, to give an accounting for the large-scale devastation and catastrophic death toll caused by the earthquakes, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu ordered the formation of a delegation that will investigate whether the party’s four mayors in Hatay — in the Hatay Metropolitan Municipality and the Arsuz, Defne and Samandağ districts — had any responsibility for the collapse of so many buildings in the city by issuing permits for construction that was not in compliance with the country’s building code or by neglecting their duties for the oversight of their construction.

The delegation, which will comprise construction experts, will be chaired by CHP Secretary-General Selin Sayek Böke and the party’s deputy chairman, Seyit Torun.

The mayor of Hatay, Lütfü Savaş, has so far resisted calls for his resignation

“Together with our state, our nation, all our municipalities and institutions, we will neither leave our job nor leave Hatay before we get this place on its feet,” Savaş said over the weekend, denying claims that he plans to resign from office and the party.

Savaş, who is currently in the CHP, served as mayor of Hatay’s Antakya district between 2009 and 2014 from the AKP. He resigned when the party failed to nominate him as a mayoral candidate for Hatay in the local elections of 2014 and joined the CHP. He has been serving as mayor of Hatay from the CHP since 2014 and was re-elected in the local elections of 2019.

In a statement over the weekend, Savaş said more than 20,000 people lost their lives in Hatay in the earthquakes while at least 24,000 others have been injured. The city lies some 200 kilometers from Pazarcık, the epicenter of the 7.8 earthquake in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş, and 300 kilometers from from Elbistan, the epicenter of the second earthquake, also in Kahramanmaraş.

The epicenters of Monday’s earthquakes in Hatay were the Defne and Samandağ districts.

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