At least 10 missing in building collapse in eastern Turkey

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A two-storey building packed with shoppers and diners collapsed in eastern Turkey on Tuesday, burying at least 10 people under heavy debris.

The incident occurred on a busy street in the eastern plains city of Malatya during evening rush hour, as residents packed shops on their way home from work.

Witnesses and media reports said the building crumbled during planned repairs that resulted in damage to one of the supporting columns.

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“I heard a crack first and then the building collapsed. A cloud of dust emerged. It was like judgement day,” witness Turhan Cobanoglu told HaberTurk television.

Turkey’s AFAD emergencies service said 13 people had been rushed to hospital as rescuers searched for signs of life under piles of debris spilling across one of Malatya’s main thoroughfares.

Officials issued contradictory reports about how many people were believed to be inside the various restaurants and shops when the building crumbled at 4:50 pm.

Local mayor Osman Guder told HaberTurk television that between 20 and 25 were believed to still be trapped inside.

Malatya’s main opposition CHP party chairman Enver Kiraz put the number trapped at up to 30.

“On the first floor, there was a chicken restaurant, a dried nuts seller and bakery. And on the second floor there was a coffee house,” Kiraz told AFP by telephone.

“It is a very busy street. As far as I know, some of the people were injured while passing by the building.”

But HaberTurk later reported that only 10 people remained unaccounted for.

Media reports said two of those rescued had suffered serious injuries.

Television images showed rescuers using construction diggers to remove large blocks of debris and trying to listen for signs of any survivors as the evening set in.

Turkey has been rocked by a series of disasters – including a wave of wildfires and two flash floods – that claimed some 100 lives this year.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under fierce political pressure when it emerged in August that Turkey no longer had functioning fire fighting planes.

The deadly flash floods wiped out houses in mountain valleys and sparked questions over why officials were approving construction licenses for regions prone to violent weather events.

Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said the state and regional authorities had fully mobilized in the search and rescue mission.

“Our prayers and hearts are with our Malatya brothers and sisters,” Altun tweeted.

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