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President Erdogan vows to crack down on looters in earthquake-hit Turkey

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a survivor hug each other as he visits the Kahramanmaras city center destroyed by Monday's earthquakes
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a survivor hug each other as he visits the Kahramanmaras city center destroyed by Monday's earthquakes Copyright AP/Turkish Presidency
Copyright AP/Turkish Presidency
By Euronews with AFP
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Reports of looting of damaged stores in Turkey are starting to circulate after catastrophic earthquakes left many buildings damaged in the country.

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Reports of looting of damaged stores in Turkey are starting to circulate after Monday's massive earthquake devastated large areas of the country's southeast. 

Video footage shows angry shopkeepers chasing out a man suspected of stealing, in the southern city of Antakya. And the looters are not only after essentials, they are also taking pricey consumer items. 

"There's a phone shop near mine where all the phones have been stolen”, says local shopkeeper Nizamettin Bilmez.

“Supermarkets are ok. If people come to take nappies, food and drinks, it's normal because no help has arrived for one to two days. People can come without problems. But some people are strange, they come to take a cooker or a coffee machine.”

According to state-run media, Turkish security teams arrested at least 98 looting suspects on Saturday, seizing over €10,000 as well as many consumer items. 

Anger at poorly enforced building regulations

Turkish authorities have also issued 131 arrest warrants in connection with the construction of buildings that collapsed due to Monday's earthquakes.

Even though Turkey has, on paper, construction codes that meet current earthquake-engineering standards, they are too rarely enforced, explaining why thousands of buildings slumped onto their side or pancaked downward onto residents.

Detentions could help direct public anger toward builders and contractors, deflecting attention away from local and state officials who allowed the apparently sub-standard constructions to go ahead. 

Already authorities have detained two contractors who are being held responsible for the destruction of several buildings in the city of Adiyaman, according to the private DHA news agency. The pair were reportedly on their way to Georgia. 

Two more people were arrested in the province of Gaziantep suspected of having cut down columns to make extra room in a building that collapsed, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

The government's response to the earthquake continues to cause headaches for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Turkey, which is already burdened by an economic downturn and high inflation, faces parliamentary and presidential elections in May.

Click on the video above to see more.

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