Reporters laid to rest as Van hotel toll rises to 40
VAN - Hürriyet Daily News
Sebahattin Yılmaz, one of the reporters who died in Van, was laid to rest yesterday. AA photo. Inset shows Cem Emir (L) and Sebahattin Yılmaz.
Two reporters from Doğan news agency (DHA), Sebahattin Yılmaz and Cem Emir, were laid to rest in their hometowns as more doubts linger over the safety of the hotel building that collapsed on them.
The bodies of the two reporters were found under the rubble on early Saturday. The ceremony for Yılmaz, 52, was held in Erzurum, while 26-year-old Emir’s funeral was held in Tunceli.
Both reporters had been covering the aftermath of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that shook Van last month, leaving at least 604 people dead.
President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other state officials sent condolence messages to DHA.
“I would like to give my condolences to the relatives and friends of Sebahattin Yılmaz and Cem Emir who worked continuously in order to better and truly inform the public,” Gül said in his message.
Erdoğan, who visited Van on Saturday, also gave his condolences to DHA and the relatives of the lost reporters.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) announced that the death toll from the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that struck eastern Turkey rose to 40. Meanwhile, search efforts were called off to find anyone else alive in the rubble of an earthquake-shattered hotel in Van yesterday. The extreme cold weather conditions continued to make life more difficult for the quake victims.
Although the search operation has ended, the controversy over which authority provided a passing grade in the damage assessment report for the Bayram Hotel after the 7.2 quake is still boiling. Twenty-five people lost their lives in the hotel when it collapsed after the 5.6 quake.
The owner of Bayram Hotel, Aslan Bayram said after the 7.2 earthquake that some officials came to his hotel and deemed it habitable. However no Turkish authority has stepped forward to confirm his claim.
The Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, AFAD and a number of academic institutions have yet to speak up about granting any such document. The Ministry of Tourism also said the collapsed hotel did not even have a tourism certificate.
Following claims that Istanbul Technical University granted the passing grade, university officials held a press meeting on Saturday and denied the claims. “We do not have the authority to provide any such report,” said Assistant Professor Beyza Taşkın. “We saw the hotel but did not even dare enter inside.”
AFAD offices in Ankara and in Van have also denied the claims.
As the controversy continued, daily Vatan reported that Bayram, who claimed to walk out of the rubble, was actually not in the hotel at the time of the earthquake.
Bayram had earlier said he was also sleeping in the hotel because he felt it was safer than his house.