Turkey’s Security Directorate General has announced that 55 children and 140 adults have been reported missing in the country’s south, which was hit by two powerful earthquakes last month.
The directorate’s deputy director, Resul Holoğlu, briefed a parliamentary committee that deals with child abuse on the missing children.
He said there are also 162 children, 137 of whom are aged 0-1, who cannot be identified and are currently in the Family and Social Services Ministry’s childcare facilities. He said efforts are underway to identify the children based on DNA and photos.
The earthquakes claimed the lives of more than 46,000 people in Turkey and more than 6,000 in Syria and caused widespread destruction.
Some analysts say the death toll and the number of missing people are higher in Turkey than the official figures.
The Turkish government has been harshly criticized for failing to reach thousands of flattened buildings in the first 48 hours after the earthquakes and leaving people trapped under the rubble to their fate. Some relatives said they rescued their family members by themselves since no search and rescue teams arrived for days after the disaster.
The government also attracted criticism for beginning debris removal prematurely without waiting for the end of search and rescue efforts and making sure all bodies had been taken out of the rubble.
Two rescue teams, from Spain and Slovakia, decided to leave Turkey earlier after the government allowed the use of construction equipment to remove debris in earthquake-affected areas, saying the move means risking the lives of many people.
Pedro Frutos from the Spanish rescue team told RTVE, Spain’s state-owned broadcaster, that they decided to leave the country since the Turkish government allowed the use of heavy equipment in quake-hit regions.
“We won’t be a part of this,” Frutos said, explaining that the use of heavy equipment to remove debris would help them save time but also means risking the death of many people under the rubble.
A member of the Slovak team who took part in search and rescue efforts for four days also told RTVE that they were told to return home since the Turkish government decided to use construction equipment to remove rubble and that it’s is expected to lead to “a complete humanitarian crisis” in the area.
There are also claims that the bodies of some earthquake victims were mixed with the rubble when heavy machinery took it for disposal.
Meanwhile, no details have yet emerged about 100 soldiers who were killed in the earthquake. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Feb. 22 that 100 soldiers had died in the earthquake region and that two others were missing.
Can Ataklı from the Korkusuz newspaper wrote about the soldiers in his column on Thursday and demanded more information from the Defense Ministry. He asked whether the soldiers died while they were in one location or scattered around the earthquake zone, what their ranks were, in which cities they had been and why no funerals were held for them.
“The government has become even more closed-lipped and less transparent about revealing information to the public after the earthquakes. I think they’re trying to cover up the serious mistakes they made in the beginning,” he wrote.