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Turkiye continues to heal from wounds inflicted by twin quakes

March 6, 2023 at 1:49 pm

Demolishing works and debris removal efforts continue after the powerful twin earthquakes hit Kahramanmaras on March 04, 2023. [Orhan Çiçek – Anadolu Agency]

A month after the devastating 6 February earthquakes in Turkiye, the government is making great efforts in every field for a rapid recovery, as the wounds of the disaster victims are being healed day by day with the help of officials, non-governmental organisations and humanitarian aid material coming from abroad.

After the magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes centred in southern Kahramanmaras province affected more than 13 million people across 11 provinces, many people were directed to safer locations across the country.

The death toll from the devastating earthquakes has risen to 45,968, including 4,267 Syrians, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Saturday.

READ: Last 123 years’ largest earthquakes in Turkiye

While official and volunteer search and rescue teams and other supportive personnel reached the quake-hit regions hours after the disaster, the first temporary shelters were built within days.

The damage calculation only included residential and non-residential buildings and infrastructure, not broader economic impacts and losses for the Turkish economy.

The quake-hit provinces accounted for around 9 per cent of the country’s total exports in 2022 valued at $20.5 billion, with Gaziantep making up the lion’s share among them at $10.52 billion.

These provinces’ share in the country’s GDP is around 9.5 per cent.

Atilla Benli, the head of payments of the Insurance Association of Turkiye, said that beside the mandatory earthquake insurance, the insurance sector will pay over 20 billion Turkish liras (some $1.1 billion) at the initial phase to the victims.

In addition to the damage to homes, a significant amount of vehicles were totalled, he added.

Temporary shelters

As of 5 March, more than 400,000 tents were built in all quake-hit provinces, while 370,482 of them were prepared by officials, the country’s Interior Minister, Suleyman Soylu, announced.

Around 1.5 million quake victims are currently living in tents, Soylu added.

Officials and NGOs have also been preparing temporary shelters, containers and brick houses.

Meanwhile, Turkiye’s Housing Development Administration began to build permanent houses for victims and it plans to begin to deliver houses within a year.

More than 617,500 people have been evacuated as of 2 March by air from the quake-hit provinces, while 292 flights have transported humanitarian aid to the region.

Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, SunExpress, Freebird Airlines, Cortex Aviation, Corendon Airlines, Tailwind Airlines, Air Anka, Mavi Gok Airlines, MNG Airlines, ULS Airlines and ACT Airlines have joined the operations.

Victims can also choose to live in dorms or hotels for free, instead of tents, while the government also provides support to the victims who choose to rent a house.

Support programs

Following the disasters, banks and the country’s banking watchdog took many steps to ease the conditions of victims, such as decreasing minimum payment amount of credit cards and postponing loan payments.

The government also eased official works for companies and individuals, reduced or removed some tax payments.

READ: Graffiti artist volunteers to heal children’s trauma with colours after Turkiye earthquakes 

Companies in the quake-hit regions can benefit from short-time working allowances.

The government also pays 10,000 Turkish liras ($530) to quake victims whose houses were damaged and 100,000 liras ($5,300) to those whose relatives died.

The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkiye revealed a plan recently to revive the quake-hit 11 provinces’ economies.

Producer firms were encouraged to meet their raw material needs and semi-products from companies located in quake-hit provinces.

The plan also aims to back quake-victim companies with technical materials, tax cuts and salary supports.

Some NGOs started works in quake-hit regions for the continuation of agricultural production under a campaign named “It’s Harvest Time”.

Through the program, which aims to harvest the unharvested products and sell them to the retailers at the market price, farmers are immediately paid.

The Turkish Grain Board also continues their activities, purchasing products in the earthquake region without any type or quota limitation.

Aid campaigns

Turkish companies announced many supportive steps such as monetary help, humanitarian aid and employment of victims.

Companies from all around the world, including Mitsubishi, Tesco, Uber, PayPal, Cisco, Caterpillar, Adidas, PwC, Mondelez and Rosatom, also supported quake victims through various programs.

After 10 days following the disaster, Turkiye’s campaign for earthquake victims – “Turkiye One Heart” – raised some 115 billion Turkish liras ($6.1 billion).

Many countries and institutions also announced help projects.

Gulf and Arab countries donated amounts of monetary help and provided a huge amount of humanitarian aid and shelters.

Campaigns in Saudi Arabia and Qatar raised nearly $100 million, while Qatar’s leader, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, personally donated $14 million.

The UAE and Libya also donated $50 million, each.

From Kuwait to Egypt, other Arab countries provided in-kind and in-cash donations, while low-income countries, such as Yemen and Palestine, also made donations.

READ: Earthquakes caused $5.1bn in damage in Syria, World Bank estimates

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