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Erdogan demands halt to illegal building

Istanbul

TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has 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-storey building that crumbled on Feb 6 for any signs of life.

A total of 43 people were registered as living at the building in the Turkish capital, whose top three floors were constructed without permits, state-run Anadolu news agency cited Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya as saying.

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"There are lots of lessons we need to learn from this incident," Mr Erdogan said after a visit to the hospital. "There are very serious problems with illegally constructed buildings," he noted, 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 do not conform to code or were illegally constructed.

Residents of the collapsed building had applied for the amnesty programme, which doesn't require applicants to prove their buildings are safe, the Haberturk newspaper reported last week. BLOOMBERG