Sunday, February 4, 2024

Turkey remembers its worst modern disaster | TOME


Turkiye Commemorates the Anniversary of its Deadliest Earthquake

Turkiye is holding pre-dawn vigils to remember the more than 50,000 lives lost in the country’s deadliest earthquake disaster. The earthquake, which occurred on February 6 last year, devastated several cities and left millions of people in shock. The toll released recently shows that 53,537 people died across 11 southeastern provinces, with an additional 5,951 lives lost in neighboring Syria. This makes it one of the ten deadliest earthquakes in the world in the past century.

The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8 and caused ancient cities like Antakya to be effectively wiped off the map. Apartment towers collapsed like houses of cards, leaving survivors shellshocked and standing outside in freezing temperatures. One survivor, Cagla Demirel, expressed her grief, saying, “It’s been a year, but it doesn’t leave our minds. Life has lost its spark. Nothing remains.”

Antakya’s remaining residents plan to gather for a vigil at 4:17 am, the time when the earthquake struck. The cry of “Can you hear us?” became a common plea across the disaster zone as people searched for their loved ones in the rubble. However, it also serves as a reminder to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government that many in the quake zone feel neglected. The region was already burdened with unemployment and underinvestment before the disaster struck.

President Erdogan has faced criticism for the government’s slow response and lack of preparedness. However, he defended his administration’s actions, stating that no nation could have averted or quickly overcome such a catastrophe. He promised to deliver 650,000 new housing units within a year and has already started distributing keys for the first 7,000 apartments in Antakya. Despite falling short of his initial promise, Erdogan aims to deliver 200,000 units by the end of the year.

While Erdogan’s housing pledges may offer some hope, many survivors remain uncertain about the future. Kadir Yeniceli, an ice cream vendor from Kahramanmaras, a hard-hit city, expressed his concerns about the lack of progress and employment opportunities. Turkiye is no better prepared for another major earthquake than it was a year ago. The country sits on two of the world’s most active fault lines and experiences minor quakes almost daily. Furthermore, hundreds of contractors are currently facing prosecution for not adhering to building safety standards.

Istanbul Technical University disaster management professor Mikdat Kadioglu emphasized the urgent need for Turkiye to transition from crisis management to risk management. The country must take proactive measures to mitigate the impact of future earthquakes. There is still much work to be done in terms of improving infrastructure and enforcing building safety standards.

As Turkiye commemorates the anniversary of its deadliest earthquake, it serves as a reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness and risk management. The loss of thousands of lives and the destruction of cities should prompt the government and citizens to prioritize safety measures. Turkiye must invest in infrastructure and ensure that buildings adhere to strict safety standards to protect its population from future earthquakes. Only through proactive measures can the country minimize the devastating impact of natural disasters.

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