At Least 28,000 Dead in Turkey, Syria Earthquake; Deaths Could Double

Rescuers continued to pull out survivors Saturday, five days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Turkey and Syria.

Some rescue operations in Turkey were stopped amid reports of nearby looting.

More than 28,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria, officials say, and millions more have been left homeless.

Martin Griffiths, United Nations aid chief, said he expects the death toll to double.

Syria’s northwestern rebel-held region was the country’s hardest hit area.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that the earthquake was the "disaster of the century."

In Turkey, rescue operations were conducted amid a massive amount of rubble produced by fallen buildings.

Turkey began arresting scores of contractors Saturday whom officials believe are responsible for the shoddy construction of buildings that collapsed during and after the earthquake.

"This is a disaster caused by shoddy construction, not by an earthquake," David Alexander, a professor of emergency planning at University College London told The Associated Press.

Eyup Muhcu, president of the Chamber of Architects of Turkey, told AP that many of the buildings that fell were built with inferior materials and methods, without regard for Turkey’s construction codes.

Suzan van der Lee, a seismologist and professor at Northwestern University, told VOA Turkish’s Ozlem Tinaz, "Earthquakes like this are going to happen ... we just don’t know when. So, the best thing to do is to be as prepared as possible, buildings that are as safe as possible and know exactly what to do when you feel the ground shake."

The VOA Turkish Service contributed to this report, which includes some information from The Associated Press.