Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan claimed that authorities should have responded more quickly to this week’s significant earthquake. On Friday, rescue workers in Turkey rescued a 10-day-old baby and his mother who were buried in the rubble of a building as well as several other individuals.
Four days after the earthquake, which was the deadliest in the area in twenty years, struck, more than 22,000 people have been verified dead across southern Turkey and northwest Syria.
Hundreds of thousands more people have been left homeless and short of food in bleak winter conditions and leaders in both countries have faced questions about their response.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his first reported trip to affected areas since the quake, visiting a hospital in Aleppo with his wife Asma, state media reported.
His government also approved humanitarian aid deliveries across the frontlines of the country’s 12-year civil war, a move that could speed up the arrival of help for millions of desperate people. The World Food Programme said earlier it was running out of stocks in rebel-held northwest Syria as the state of war there complicated relief efforts.
Erdogan on Friday visited Turkey’s Adiyaman province, where he acknowledged the government’s response was not as fast as it could have been.
“Although we have the largest search and rescue team in the world right now, it is a reality that search efforts are not as fast as we wanted them to be,” he said.
He also said looting of shops had taken place in some areas.
Erdogan is standing for re-election in a vote scheduled for May 14 and his opponents have seized upon the issue to attack him. The election may now be postponed due to the disaster.
If the election happens, the catastrophe is likely to influence the outcome because of simmering resentment about the length of time it took to start the rescue effort and supply help.
Erdogan has urged unity and denounced what he has called “negative campaigns for political purpose,” saying that the referendum was his hardest test in his 20 years in leadership, even before the earthquake.
The leader of Turkey’s largest opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, criticized the government’s response.
According to Kilicdaroglu, “the earthquake was enormous, but what was much worse than the earthquake was the lack of cooperation, lack of planning, and incompetence.”