ANKARA (AFP): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted for the first time Friday that his government’s search and rescue effort from this week’s devastating earthquake was not going as quickly as hoped.
Erdogan has faced criticism from the quake’s survivors about an insufficient number of rescuers and humanitarian aid being delivered in the first days of Turkey’s biggest disaster in nearly a century.
The death toll from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude tremor has surpassed 22,000 across southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria.
Nearly 19,000 of those deaths happened in Turkey.
Erdogan repeated an earlier admission that there had been “shortcomings” in his government’s response.
But he appeared to go one step further by conceding that his teams could have responded more quickly.
“So many buildings were damaged that unfortunately, we were not able to speed up our interventions as quickly as we had desired,” Erdogan said during a visit to the hard-hit southern city of Adiyaman.
He added that Turkey had now gathered “perhaps the world’s largest search and rescue team” comprised of 141,000 across 10 affected provinces.
He also fired back at his critics heading into a crunch election the government plans for May 14.
Erdogan called out “opportunists who want to turn this pain into their political gain”.