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politics

Erdogan Demands Halt to Illegal Building as Toll Climbs

Erdogan Demands Halt to Illegal Building as Toll Climbs

Rescue workers search the rubble of the building in Istanbul.

Rescue workers search the rubble of the building in Istanbul.

Photographer: Yasin Akgul/AFP via FGetty Images

Rescue workers search the rubble of the building in Istanbul.

Photographer: Yasin Akgul/AFP via FGetty Images

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded a halt to the illegal construction that’s rampant in Turkey as the death toll from the collapse of an apartment building in Istanbul rose to 21.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu updated the casualty figure as rescuers continued to comb the rubble from the seven-story building that crumbled on Feb. 6 for any signs of life. Forty-three people were registered as living at the building, whose top three floors were constructed without permits, state-run Anadolu news agency cited Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya as saying on Wednesday.

“There are lots of lessons we need to learn from this incident,” Erdogan said after a visit to the hospital. “There are very serious problems with illegally constructed buildings,” he said on Saturday, adding that “necessary” steps will be taken.

The government is taking fire for the so-called zoning amnesty it introduced last year that has allowed the legal registration of about 13 million buildings that don’t conform to code or were illegally constructed. Residents of the collapsed building had applied for the amnesty program, which doesn’t require applicants to prove their buildings are safe, the Haberturk newspaper reported on Thursday.

(Updates with Erdogan comments, new death toll in first paragraph.)