Erdogan promises to build new houses for displaced quake survivors

Over 20,000 Syrians in Türkiye voluntarily returned to their home country after recent quakes, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised on Tuesday to build new houses for displaced survivors of the massive earthquakes within one year and entirely reconstruct the quake-hit provinces.

“We are taking steps with the approach that will completely build our provinces again … Just like our city centers, we aim to raise our villages within a year,” Erdogan said in earthquake-hit southern Osmaniye province.

The government plans to build 200,000 houses in 11 cities and another 70,000 houses in villages, and groundbreaking is set to start in March, he noted.

The president also stressed the significance of “urban transformation” projects aimed at replacing decrepit buildings that cannot withstand strong earthquakes.

“It is clear that we all have lessons. It is of great importance that we eliminate our deficiencies and arbitrate our strengths. We must accomplish the urban transformation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government has prepared container and tent cities to accommodate displaced earthquake survivors if they choose to remain in their hometowns until permanent homes are built.

A total of 301,289 tents and 6,375 containers have been set up, the country’s disaster agency said on Tuesday. Currently, more than 865,000 displaced citizens are settled in tents and 23,500 others in containers.

A total of 448,018 people have been evacuated from 11 quake-hit provinces, Türkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said.

Updating the death toll on Tuesday, the agency said at least 42,310 people were killed in two massive quakes that struck southern Türkiye on Feb. 6.

On Monday night, two new earthquakes measuring 6.4- and 5.8-magnitude, respectively, jolted the southern Hatay province near the Syrian border, killing at least six people and wounding 294 others.

Many buildings weakened by the Feb. 6 tremors collapsed during the latest earthquakes.

Many residents of Hatay, whose homes had been damaged or destroyed, flocked to the intercity bus terminal in order to leave the province, the NTV broadcaster reported on Tuesday.

Images from the local DHA news agency showed some sections of highways in Hatay collapsed, with meters-long crevices. Patients in an intensive care unit were transported to field hospitals to continue their treatment after two hospitals in the districts of Antakya and Iskenderun were evacuated.

The massive earthquakes have not only affected the lives of local Turkish citizens, but also those of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees being accommodated in the area.

Over 20,000 Syrians in Türkiye voluntarily returned to their home country after recent quakes, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday.

As of Feb. 1, more than 460,000 Syrian refugees were registered as living in the southern Gaziantep province, with 354,000 others residing in Hatay, according to the figures released by Turkey’s Directorate of Immigration. ■

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