Turkey has begun to rebuild for the 1.5 million people displaced by the earthquakes
ANTIAKH/ANKARA, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkey has begun work on rebuilding homes after this month’s devastating earthquake as the total death toll in Turkey and Syria passed 50,000, a government official said on Friday.
More than 160,000 buildings containing 520,000 apartments collapsed or were severely damaged in the February 6 earthquake that killed tens of thousands in Turkey and neighboring Syria.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) announced that the death toll in Turkey as a result of the earthquakes rose to 44,218 on Friday night.
As the reported death toll in Syria rose to 5,914, the total death toll in the two countries rose to more than 50,000.
Facing an election within months, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to rebuild homes within a year, though experts said authorities must put safety before speed. Some buildings that were supposed to withstand earthquakes have collapsed in recent earthquakes.
“Many tenders and contracts have been executed. The process is going very quickly,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that there would be no compromises on safety.
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Authorities say tents have been sent to many homeless people, but people have reported problems accessing them.
“I have eight children. We live in a tent. There is water above (the tent) and the ground is damp. We ask for more tents and they don’t give them to us,” said Malak, 67, who was waiting in line to collect aid outside a secondary school in the city of Al-Ahsa.
The school was used as an aid distribution center by a group of volunteers called Interrail Turkey. One of the volunteers, Soumya Karabocek, said the lack of tents remains the biggest problem.
We need half a million new homes
Erdogan’s government has come under fire for its response to the destruction and what many Turks say are years of failure to enforce construction quality control.
He said that the Turkish government’s initial plan now is to build 200,000 apartments and 70,000 village houses at a cost of at least $15 billion. US bank JPMorgan estimated that rebuilding homes and infrastructure would cost $25 billion.
The United Nations Development Program said it estimated that the destruction had left 1.5 million people homeless, with 500,000 new homes needed.
She said she had asked for $113.5 million of the $1 billion appealed by the United Nations last week, adding that she would focus the money on clearing mountains of rubble.
The United Nations Development Program estimates that the disaster produced between 116 million and 210 million tons of rubble, compared to 13 million tons of rubble after the 1999 earthquake in northwest Turkey.
Turkey has also issued new regulations under which charitable companies and foundations can build homes and workplaces to donate to the Ministry of Urbanization for people in need.
Many of the survivors left the quake-stricken southern region of Turkey or settled in tents, container homes and other government-sponsored accommodation.
In Antakya, Saeed Suleiman Ertoglu, 56, loaded up the remaining stock of his undamaged hookah shop.
“The glassware was very beautiful, more than usual, but then (the earthquake) happened, and everything was destroyed,” he said, after his house and shop survived the first but not subsequent tremors. He estimated that only 5% of his goods survived.
He said, “What can we do?” “This is God’s work, and God’s will always brings gifts.”
Additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun, Hüseyin Hayatcifer and Mehmet Dinar. Written by Hamira Pamuk and Mike Georgie, Editing by Edmund Blair, Darren Butler, Nick McPhee and David Gregorio
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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