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Earthquake relief fund to be launched

ACTIVISTS in Britain and Turkey will launch an emergency fundraising appeal tomorrow for the victims of a deadly earthquake in Turkey.

The quake hit Elazig province on Friday, leaving scores dead and thousands injured and displaced.

The region has been hit by about 300 aftershocks following the 6.8 magnitude earthquake, with the death toll rising as search and rescue efforts continue.

The fundraising appeal is being set up amid allegations of corruption and misuse of funds by government relief organisations and NGOs, including the Turkish Red Crescent.

On Saturday, the Red Crescent withdrew an appeal for donations amid criticism of its lavish spending of UN aid money on luxury cars and apartments.

The group has close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party. Its vice-president Kerem Kinik worked on former prime minister Binali Yildirim’s unsuccessful campaign in the Istanbul mayoral election.

Criticism has been made of relief efforts, with Turkey said to be unprepared after cuts were made to seismic monitoring services.

The government has also been accused of wasting earthquake tax funds on unrelated infrastructure work or vanity projects.

Accusations of widespread racism were made after “Is Elazig Kurdish?” became one of the most searched sentences on Google in Turkey following the earthquake.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Saturday that the government was set to open investigations into social media posts critical of the response to the disaster.

“Discussing Turkey’s efficiency regarding the earthquake is inhumane. We will initiate investigations against those who share earthquake photos creating panic,” he told reporters.

Turkey sits on two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck north-west Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.

A magnitude-six earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.

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