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The Turkish earthquakes: Have the wounds healed?

February 8, 2024 at 5:44 pm

A group gathered at Narlica Earthquake Martyrdom to commemorate the children who lost their lives in the February 6 earthquake, leaving toys and balloons on their graves in Hatay, Turkiye on February 02, 2024. [Sergen Sezgin – Anadolu Agency]

I lost 34 members from my family last year and my grandmother lost her treasured house in one night.  Since I woke up this morning, I have been trying to think of words to describe the pain we experienced in the wake of the 6 February 2023 earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria last year. The reality is, I find it hard to vocalise the anger I feel towards the government in Turkiye, which ignored or excused the construction of thousands of illegal buildings over the past few decades.

One year after the tragedy, the scale of the challenge remains immense. Lives have been shattered, families broken and loved ones lost, but not forgotten. While there have been successes and failures in the government’s efforts to rebuild, the role of civil society and businesses has been vital in the process.

However, the question remains: do people still want to live in this part of Turkiye, or have they moved on to other areas, taking with them the pain of the tragedy and the hope of a new beginning?

While buildings can be rebuilt, what about those who suffered life-changing injuries? Are they being looked after? And what about the schools and universities? Has life stood still, or is it getting back to a semblance of normalcy?

READ: A boy’s arduous steps on prosthetic legs after Turkiye earthquake

The earthquakes caused more than $100 billion in damage to the Turkish economy, according to the World Bank and IMF. While many residences, as well as schools and hospitals, were destroyed in 11 provinces directly affected by the earthquake, the infrastructure in the region, especially the roads, was greatly damaged.

The quakes led to an increase in infrastructure and superstructure-based problems, such as electricity, water, internet, sewage, roads and transportation in the region.

According to the government, the continuation of earthquakes in the region is one of the most important reasons for the delay by the Toki construction company. Eleven cities were affected by the earthquakes on that day and those cities have been struck again and again, shaken by 57,017 small earthquakes over the last year.

On 6 February 2023 two powerful earthquakes hit southern Turkiye and northern Syria

On 6 February 2023 two powerful earthquakes hit southern Turkiye and northern Syria

It was said that the late arrival of state institutions and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) to the region after the earthquakes magnified the impact of the destruction.

Despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promise that newly built houses would be given to those left homeless after the earthquake, opposition parties complain that the conditions in for earthquake victims staying in container cities and tents are still very bad, despite the promises.

Referring to the rental support aid for earthquake victims, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said that a total of 14.5 billion lira ($472.4 million) has been paid to 349,000 households so far, and in this context, 7,500 in monthly support has been provided to homeowners and 5,000 lira ($163) to tenants.

Yerlikaya also said that 10,000 lira ($326) in support payments were made to 1.979 million households, 15,000 lira ($489) moving aid was given to 557,000 households and 100,000 lira ($32,600) in funeral expenses was provided to 41,000 family relatives.

“A total of 106.7 billion lira [$3.5 billion] resources were transferred to our earthquake region,” he added.

People, the minister continued, opened their doors to earthquake victims within the scope of the ‘Let My Home Be Your Home’ campaign launched by AFAD.

Famous artists also commemorated the first anniversary of the earthquake. World-famous singer, Tarkan, said, “We have not forgotten what happened and what was kept alive,” and used the following expressions in his post:

“This photo, which broke our hearts, never left our minds. We did not forget the 6 February earthquake and what happened during this earthquake. We also said that the promises made were not fully fulfilled…”

There are people with the means and the training to prepare Turkiye for an earthquake. We will only move forward through the use of science and technology.

READ: Turkiye has released new projects for earthquake hit areas

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.