Latest tremor heaps misery on Turkish region reeling from earlier earthquake

Emergency services rushed to the scene of the latest collapsed building as the quake-hit region of Anatolia in Turkey was hit by another powerful tremor that was felt as far away as Egypt. For the survivors of the earthquake, this nightmare seems to have no end.

New tremors

In the city of Hatay, a rescue team recovered a body from a collapsed building after the recent deadly earthquake.

Relatives watch and mourn the youngest victim. The 6.4 tremor epicenter was near Hatay. A region that was devastated by two heavy earthquakes two weeks ago. The latest quake has further traumatized the already deeply shocked people who are trying to rebuild their shattered lives.

“I can not sleep at night. Will the same thing happen again,” wondered Hatay resident Havva Tuncay. “Will we see another earthquake? We are very afraid. I haven’t slept in a week. It’s gotten to a certain level that sometimes I can’t feel my feet anymore,” she added.

Officials inspect a truck’s load between a convoy of tent and shelter kits provided by the United Nations after a deadly earthquake at Syria’s Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey in the rebel-held northwestern Idlib province in February December 12, 2023. AFP-OMAR HAJ KADOUR

Experts warn of the danger of powerful aftershocks from the recent quake. Yet international aid is still arriving. But since the beginning of the crisis, criticism of the sluggish response of the emergency services and the lack of a large-scale military operation has been growing.

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“The situation on the ground is grim, people are outraged and we are all mourning, and it is a catastrophe that we will not overcome any time soon,” said Zeynep Alemdag, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Ozan University.

“Region has lost ten to twenty years”

“The region has lost at least ten to twenty years,” Alemdag added. “But most of the discussion about accountability for government actions and policies will revolve around why there hasn’t been an earlier attempt to alleviate the situation.”

Visiting the disaster-stricken region, President Erdogan acknowledged shortcomings but insisted the tremors were a once-in-a-century event and that no one could plan such a disaster.

“Despite the fact that we have assembled perhaps one of the largest search and rescue teams in the region with more than 141,000 members, it is unfortunately a fact that we have not been able to react as quickly as hoped,” Erdogan said.

Muhammed Cafer Cetin, an 18-year-old survivor of the earthquake, is rescued from the rubble of a building about 198 hours after last week’s devastating earthquake in Adiyaman, Turkey, February 14, 2023. via REUTERS – IHLAS NEWS AGENCY (IHA)

But criticism continues to mount as the crisis unfolds. Government-controlled broadcasting regulators have begun slapping penalties on TV stations that criticize their handling of the crisis.

There are also questions about why so many buildings collapsed. Many were newly built and should have met strict earthquake safety regulations. Under particular scrutiny is a government amnesty four years ago for buildings that violated earthquake regulations in exchange for the builders paying a fine. The owners of more than 100,000 buildings are said to have taken advantage of the amnesty in the earthquake region.

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political storm

The response to the crisis and its underlying causes are creating a gathering political storm for Erdogan and his government.

“It seems to me that the government has not grasped the extent of the catastrophe,” warns political scientist Soli Özel from Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“The fact that everything started from the presidential palace meant that nobody could take the initiative and saving face and pointing the blame seemed much more important to me than saving lives and getting rid of the rubble and making the bereaved feel good.

“And now we’re at the stage of covering the tracks, with the President claiming 98 percent of the houses destroyed were built before 1999 (the year earthquake-proof building codes were introduced), although I think the whole world knows that’s not true “Ozel added.

The questions facing Erodgan and his AKP party are likely to increase as the humanitarian crisis deepens. The country is heading towards presidential and parliamentary elections, which must be held by June.


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