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Earthquake survivors in Turkey’s Izmir get new homes after a year


The government has fulfilled its pledge to provide new homes for people who lost everything in the October 30, 2020 earthquake that shook Izmir, Turkey’s third largest province. On Friday, dozens of homes and shops built by the Housing Authority were handed over to survivors in a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Initially, 596 apartments and 145 shops were handed over to people whose homes and shops were destroyed in the earthquake or severely damaged. New buildings were erected in seven areas across Berkeley, where the majority of casualties occurred and the largest damage to buildings reported. Some were built close to buildings demolished in the disaster while others were built on empty lands around the area.

The area is also undergoing a massive “urban transformation” project, a program already underway across the country that involves replacing old dilapidated buildings with new ones that are resistant to potential earthquakes. In total, 5,074 housing units and 353 commercial stores will be built. More apartments are expected to be handed over to survivors next week and in the coming months.

The new buildings stand out among the others as they have fewer floors (five at most), in contrast to the buildings damaged during last year’s disaster. The Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKI) has constructed the new buildings.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hands home keys to earthquake survivors at a ceremony in Izmir, western Turkey, November 26, 2021 (AA PHOTO)

In the aftermath of the earthquake, authorities launched an extensive investigation into the damage to buildings across Izmir, combing some 210,000 buildings. A total of 680 buildings were found to be severely damaged, while another 630 sustained moderate damage. About 500 heavily damaged buildings have been demolished, while demolition work is underway for others.

Survivors found shelter in prefabricated housing units erected by the state in the aftermath of the disaster, but within months, they moved into rented homes, homes they bought, or with relatives and friends. The government provided rental assistance to the survivors and 1,728 people are still benefiting from this assistance today.

Speaking at the handover ceremony of the new homes, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the state has been with Izmir residents since the earthquake hit the city and has taken steps to address their problems. “Our country has the most efficient and fastest disaster intervention plan. We are able to start search and rescue operations within minutes and assistance is provided within hours. This is what we did in Izmir. We worked day and night to heal the wounds of the earthquake survivors and left no one in the cold. And without a solution to their problems.”

The president noted that urban transformation efforts have been accelerated and are adding to the nearly 20,000 buildings demolished in the past nine years as part of the transformation efforts. “Every year, we experience earthquakes of 5.0 to 25 times greater magnitude every year (all over the country). Most earthquakes occur on fault lines that have long been known to exist. Earthquakes do not kill people and (unsafe) buildings for earthquakes kill people. We act. After taking this fact into account and converting buildings.To date, we have converted about 3 million housing units.We don’t know when the disaster will strike, so I call on all our citizens to convert their buildings into danger, caution.

Meanwhile, a trial is underway over alleged negligence in the construction of buildings that collapsed during the earthquake, as well as over illegal alterations to buildings that may have paved the way for the immediate collapse during the disaster. Building contractors, architects, and engineers are on trial.

A report by a group of researchers from Gazi University in Ankara, who visited the disaster area two days after the earthquake, noted the “deficiencies” of the collapsed structures and precarious ground conditions. Some buildings were erected in areas that were once orchards and swamps.

Turkey, a country on several active fault lines, has tightened building inspections and implemented regulations to enhance the safety of new buildings after the infamous 1999 earthquake that killed thousands in Istanbul and neighboring provinces.

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