Turkey promises swift rebuild; contractors make pledge

By Murray Pollok and Reuters staff15 February 2023

Turkey said it would demolish buildings heavily damaged by a huge earthquake last week and swiftly start a mammoth reconstruction effort.

The combined death toll in the two countries has climbed over 41,000, and millions are in need over humanitarian aid, with many survivors having been left homeless in near-freezing winter temperatures.

Turkey earthquake photo General view of rubble and damage in the aftermath of the earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, February 15, 2023. (Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne)

Estimates of the cost of the immediate rebuilding efforts in Turkey alone in 2023 are between €22 and €25 billion.

In Turkey’s southern Hatay province, half of the buildings have either collapsed, been heavily damaged, or need to be demolished quickly, the government said.

“We will quickly demolish what needs to be demolished and build safe houses,” Turkey’s Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum tweeted.

The Turkish Contractors Association (TMB), in an announcement made after the widely reported arrests of more than 100 individuals in relation to building standards, said the industry would donate 1% of the cost of the public rebuilding efforts in 2023, amounting to Lira 4.5-5.0 billion (€0.22—0.25 billion).

The association said on 14 February; “As the Turkish Contractors Association family - the contracting companies that have completed the most important projects in our country - we have decided to contribute to the reconstruction effort, in order to meet the housing needs of our more than one million citizens who have become homeless, as soon as possible.

“Public contractors, who are not members of our Association, with whom we had the opportunity to share our decision, also stated that they agree with our proposal.”

The association said it had mobilised machinery to the affected regions quickly after the quakes; “Our companies have also opened construction site facilities in the region to meet the shelter and food needs of our citizens in the disaster, and they have started to work on the establishment of container and tent cities and have sought to supply a large number of food and necessities.”

The government encouraged people to go back home, if and when authorities have deemed their building safe, “in order to start getting back to normal,” Tourism Minister Nuri Ersoy told a news conference in Malatya, some 160 km from the epicenter of the earthquake.

Syria relief efforts
Across the border, in Syria, relief efforts have been hampered by a civil war that has splintered the country and divided regional and global powers.

Parts of the provinces of Idlib and adjacent Aleppo held by Turkey-backed rebels suffered the bulk of the quake’s casualties in Syria: over 4,400 of a death toll of more than 5,800, according to the United Nations and government authorities.

On Tuesday, eight days after the quake, a second border crossing for aid delivery was opened after Syrian President Bashar al Assad gave his assent, marking a shift for Damascus which has long opposed cross-border aid deliveries to the rebel enclave.

But the trucks included none of the heavy equipment and machines that rescuers say they need to remove rubble faster – and that could have helped with reconstruction.

“What happened to us – it’s the first time it’s happened around the world. There was an earthquake and the international community and the U.N. don’t help,” said Raed Saleh, who heads the ‘White Helmets’ rescue force operating in opposition-held areas.

(Reuters staff: Ali Kucukgocmen, Khalil Ashawi, Ingrid Melander, Christina Fincher.)

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