Turkey’s Erdogan acknowledges ‘shortcomings’ in earthquake response

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday acknowledged “shortcomings” in his government’s response to a massive earthquake that has claimed thousands of lives.

“Of course, there are shortcomings. The conditions are clear to see. It’s not possible to be ready for a disaster like this,” Erdogan said in his most direct response yet to accusations that his government failed to supply a sufficient number of rescuers and aid.

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Enraged residents have told AFP that state agencies have failed to arrive in time with food, tents or equipment to search for trapped survivors.

AFP correspondents saw anguished relatives use their bare hands to find loved ones under the rubble in some hard-hit locations.

A huge 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Turkey and Syria, killing at least 11,719 people, injuring tens of thousands of people and leaving millions without access to shelter or heat.

Touring Hatay, a southern province with Turkey’s highest death toll, Erdogan also pushed back against local critics who alleged that the area has an insufficient number of police officers and soldiers involved in rescue work.

“Some dishonorable, dishonest people are making false statements such as ‘we didn’t see any soldiers or police in Hatay’,” Erdogan said in televised remarks from the province.

“Our soldiers and police are honorable. We won’t let the disreputable speak of them like this,” he said.

Erdogan added that more than 21,000 personnel, including soldiers and police, were at work in the province, vowing that “no one will be left unprotected.”

“By taking every necessary step, we will carry out a disaster response that won’t leave anyone under the rubble and will not leave anyone to suffer,” he said.

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