Turkiye’s Erdogan asks forgiveness for quake rescue delays

ISTANBUL (AFP): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday asked for forgiveness over rescue delays while visiting one of the areas hit hardest by the deadly earthquake earlier this month.

Erdogan, who is seeking another term as president after two decades in power, has received strong criticism from earthquake survivors in Adiyaman in the southeast.

In the last election in 2018, Erdogan handily beat his secular opposition rival in that province.

“Due to the devastating effect of the tremors and the bad weather, we were not able to work the way we wanted in Adiyaman for the first few days. I apologize for this,” Erdogan said.

The February 6 quake killed more then 44,000 people in Turkiye and thousands more in neighboring Syria.

AFP reported the locals’ fury with the government from Adiyaman on February 10.

“I did not see anyone until 2:00 p.m. on the second day of the earthquake,” Adiyaman resident Mehmet Yildirim told AFP at the time.

“No government, no state, no police, no soldiers. Shame on you! You left us on our own.”

The catastrophe struck just as Erdogan was gaining momentum and starting to lift his approval numbers from a low suffered during a dire economic crisis that exploded last year.

Shortly after the quake, Erdogan had admitted “shortcomings” in the government’s handling of the disaster.