Turkey Earthquake Trial Opens Amid Anger and Tears

The families addressed the court one by one, sobbing as they spoke the names of relatives who had been killed when their upscale apartment complex in southern Turkey toppled over during a powerful earthquake last year.

One woman, whose son had died in the collapse alongside his wife and their 3-year-old son, lashed out at the defendants — the men who had built the complex and the inspectors charged with ensuring that it was safe.

“Shame on you,” said the woman, Remziye Bozdemir. “Your children are alive, mine are dead.”

The hearing on Thursday was the first aimed at seeking accountability for the collapse of Renaissance Residence, one of the most catastrophic building failures during the earthquakes of Feb. 6, 2023, which damaged hundreds of thousands of structures and killed more than 53,000 people across southern Turkey.

More than 300 people died inside Renaissance, and many more were wounded. An investigation and forensic analysis by The New York Times found that a tragic combination of poor design and minimal oversight had left the building vulnerable, ultimately causing its 13 stories to smash into the earth.

Since the quakes, the anger of many survivors has centered on the lax construction practices that allowed so many defective buildings to rise across a region with a history of powerful temblors. When the ground shook last year, many structures became death traps, pancaking down on their residents and killing them instantly or trapping them alive inside the rubble.

In recent months, Turkish courts have begun hearing cases seeking to assign responsibility for the deadly collapses. The Renaissance trial is one such case, which illustrates what victims’ advocates say are the limits of post-quake justice.

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