Last week’s quakes in Türkiye ‘exceptional natural phenomenon,’ says president

Experts across the world have described last week's twin earthquakes in Türkiye as a singular natural phenomenon, the country's president said on Tuesday.

"With the consensus of all experts in the world, the earthquakes of Kahramanmaras are considered an exceptional natural phenomenon with their magnitude, destructiveness, and the fact that they occurred back to back," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a Cabinet meeting at the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) in the capital Ankara.

He underlined that "serious" destruction had occurred in the 10 provinces worst hit by the magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes that shook the region on Feb. 6.

Erdogan also said that at least 35,418 people had died and 105,505 others injured due to the earthquakes, both of which were centered in the province of Kahramanmaras, affecting more than 13 million people.

"The disaster, which took place in an area larger than the entire territory of many countries in the world, took place at such a short distance from the surface, 7 kilometers (4.3 miles), multiplying the destruction (it caused) compared to other major earthquakes in history.

"These successive earthquakes released energy equivalent to hundreds of the most powerful atomic bombs," he added.

The adjacent provinces of Gaziantep, Adiyaman, Malatya, Hatay, Adana, Diyarbakir, Kilis, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa were also hit hard by the two massive tremors that struck within the space of 10 hours.

Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the earthquakes.

Erdogan said that a total of 13,208 injured are still receiving treatment in hospitals.

"According to the preliminary findings, 211,000 homes in 47,000 buildings in the earthquake zone were found to have been destroyed, severely damaged, or needing demolition," he said, adding that damage assessment will be completed within a week.

He said 98% of all the buildings destroyed in the disaster were built before 1999, when a massive quake hit Türkiye’s Marmara region, killing 18,000 people and later resulting in new tougher, quake-resistant building codes.

Erdogan promised to rebuild every house and workplace destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the quakes and hand them over to the owners.

"As of the beginning of March, we are launching the construction of 30,000 houses immediately," he said, adding that the Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Ministry and Housing Development Administration will launch preparations for new houses and cities to be built in the region.

"Our aim is to complete the construction of high-quality, safe buildings in one year to meet the housing need in the entire quake-hit area," he stressed.

250,000 public personnel in quake-hit areas

Erdogan said 250,000 public personnel are carrying out search and rescue efforts in the earthquake zone.

"The number of pieces of construction equipment deployed in the field reached 12,235, the number of aircraft reached 76, the number of helicopters 121, the number of ships 26, and the number of unmanned aerial vehicles reached 45," he said.

The president added that 84 countries sent nearly 11,000 search and rescue personnel to the quake-hit area.

"On behalf of myself and the nation, I would like to express my gratitude to each and every one of our friends who stand by us with their financial assistance, commitments, moral support, and prayers on this dark day," he added.

Türkiye will continue with search and rescue efforts until the last survivor is pulled from under collapsed buildings, Erdogan stressed.

"We will not leave any of our citizens financially or morally bereft, and we will ensure that efforts for aid and shelters continue," he vowed.

He also said additional support to citizens will be provided according to the needs that arise in the days to come.

"Our banking sector allocated a certain percentage of 2022 profits for the earthquake, around 50 billion liras," Erdogan said.

Shelter needs of quake victims met

Türkiye has met the shelter needs of a total of 1.6 million earthquake victims, Erdogan said.

More than 175,000 tents and 5,400 containers were set up in the earthquake zone, and over 2.6 million blankets sent, he added.

"We will make 10,000 containers that have started to be transported from Qatar available for those in need, along with the additions we will provide from inside and outside the country," he said.

The president also stressed that Turkish security forces, with its 73,000 personnel, and 65,000 gendarmerie officers provide service day and night in every area in the region.

He added that 28,000 Turkish soldiers are on duty in the earthquake zone.

Erdogan also called for unity and solidarity in the aftermath of the deadly quakes.

'Time to heal wounds'

Türkiye utilizes all of the aids granted to AFAD at home and abroad, amounting to 8.3 billion liras for the time being, Erdogan stressed.

"As cabinet members and government officials who attended the cabinet meeting, we have decided to donate a total of 136 million 589 thousand liras to AFAD for earthquake victims," he added.

Erdogan also announced that a campaign for donations will be held on Wednesday at 0800 p.m. local time (1700GMT) in Türkiye, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), and in Azerbaijan, with the slogan 'Türkiye acts with one heart'.

"Now it is time to heal the wounds, alleviate the pain, rebuild what has been destroyed, and make millions of our people cling to life," he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency