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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 February, 2004, 18:58 GMT
Many die as Turkey flats collapse
Rescue teams
Rescuers say there are a few air pockets for survivors
A block of flats has collapsed in the Turkish city of Konya, killing at least 15 and injuring dozens, officials say.

More than 30 people have been pulled alive from the rubble and rescuers were battling to reach more than 70 others.

"There are voices coming from the back of the building. There are obviously people alive. We are trying to reach them," city governor Ahmet Kayhan said.

There is no word on the cause, but attention was focusing on construction standards at the 11-storey block.

Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer appeared to echo those concerns in his message of condolence to the victims' families.

"Human life is so important," he said. "It must not be sacrificed to irresponsibility and contempt for the rules."

It's as if there wasn't even any concrete, as though the building was simply made of earth
Ramazan Bayraktar,

City governor Ahmet Kayhan said they had launched an investigation into the two brothers who designed and built the block of flats.

Two more nearby blocks built by the same brothers have been evacuated.

The collapsed building housed about 40 flats on a busy street in the district of Selcuklu. Those rescued so far were thought to have been living in the upper floors of the building.

Rescuers have been using everything from mechanical diggers to their bare hands to clear the debris and find survivors.

Two more people were pulled from the rubble at about midday on Tuesday.

Hatice Kubra Turkoglu said she had dug at the soil with her hands .

"My husband was near me but I don't know whether he is alive or dead," she said.


But there are concerns that time is running out for other survivors, who may be trapped in air pockets.

Rescue worker Hakan Korkut, from the non-governmental search and rescue organisation Akut, told Anatolia news agency: "We're coming across many bodies but our priority is to find survivors, so we're not doing anything about the dead at the moment."

He said it was hard to remove the concrete intact because it crumbled into a powder.

Nearby residents described the moment the building collapsed at 8:30 pm (1830 GMT) on Monday.

"We heard a gigantic crash," pastry shop owner Yeter Oguz said. "There was so much dust in the air that it took us 10 minutes to figure out which building collapsed."

Poor record

Firefighter Ramazan Bayraktar, at the rescue scene, said the building did not comply with safety regulations.

"It's as if there wasn't even any concrete, as though the building was simply made of earth," he told Turkish NTV.

Collapsed building
Concern has been expressed about construction standards

Turkey has been criticised for its poor construction methods, which have been blamed for high death tolls in past earthquakes and other disasters.

Six people were killed in central Istanbul on Saturday when their wooden home collapsed.

In May 2003, a dormitory in south-eastern Turkey collapsed in an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4, killing 84 students.

In 2001, a small hotel came down during tunnelling work on Istanbul's metro, killing two people and wounding more than 20.

The BBC's Steve Bryant
"There is something of a mystery surrounding the collapse"

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