As another two earthquakes hit Turkey, anger continues to grow

Image by Meydan TV. Used with permission.

#Bölgeyeçadıryollayın (send tents to the area) was trending on Twitter on February 20, as two new earthquakes this time, with 6.4 and 5.8 magnitudes respectively, hit Hatay, Turkey — one of the worst hit provinces following the devastating earthquake on February 6. Scores of Turks took it to Twitter, calling on the state to send more tents while also questioning what happened to all the donations raised over the last two weeks.

Its been two weeks man, two weeks! You failed at providing people with tents, where did those millions you were airing live go?!

I cannot believe we have to write this 14 days since the earthquake #sendtentstothearea

I have been in Hatay for days now. Whoever I spoke to or asked questions to, the answer was all the same: ‘All we want is a tent.’ Its been 15 days!

Speaking to one news outlet, Refik Eryilmaz, the Mayor of Samandag, a town in Hatay, said due to cold weather conditions and lack of tents, many people returned to their damaged of felled homes.

You are the disaster of the century. During the COVID-19 pandemic you could not distribute even five masks, you ruined the economy while wasting billions of dollars, you forced people to live in damaged buildings, you have blocked aid, and left people waiting for tents for 14 days and forced them to take shelter inside their [damaged] homes.

The state has termed the earthquake that hit Turkey on February 6 as the “disaster of the century.”

According to BBC Turkish, the State Disaster and Emergency Authority said it had dispatched some 6,000 tents to the area following the earthquake on February 20.

According to official accounts, six people died as a result of the February 20 earthquake while 294 were injured. The death toll from the previous earthquake reached 41,156 as of February 20.

Hollow promises and plans on paper

On February 7, Murat Kurum, the Minister of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change claimed that the state did not leave its citizens in any earthquake-hit areas exposed or alone. The responses from the ground tell a different story.

On February 19, Yunus Sezer, the head of Turkey’s disaster management agency, AFAD, said search and rescue efforts were ongoing in Hatay and Kahramanmaras, the earthquake’s epicentre, while elsewhere the work to remove the debris started as early as February 14.

Since February 6, the state has been heavily criticized both by the public and experts for its lack of adequate emergency response, but also over its dismissal of recommendations and reports handed in by engineers and earthquake experts. A video of the ruling Justice and Development Party lawmaker Ahmet Özdemir drawing on a piece of paper the plan of the new Kahramanmaras was widely circulated by the local media and on social media platforms, pointing yet again to the lack of continuing understanding by the ruling government of what it means to rebuild a city after an earthquake.

Özdemir, was filmed while sitting at a desk with a blank A4 paper in front of him, pointing to locations where new buildings should be erected because those were the spots where there were no fault lines. Two men sat next to him, nodding in unison to the lawmaker's recommendations. In a tweet, opposition Republican People's Party member Burhanetting Bulut asked whether the state had learned anything from the earthquake that struck Turkey on February 6:

Here is merit, here is the light of science… AKP's ‘lawyer’ deputy Ahmet Özdemir, with pen and paper in his hand, is explaining the new city plan of Kahramanmaraş. And no one comes out to say, “what do you know about city planning.” Haven't you learned a lesson from the disaster?

Another member of the CHP party tweeted:

The most famous earthquake experts and city planners have come together to devise a plan that avoid another disaster in Maras and other provinces. I wish this was the case. These are AKP MP Ahmet Özdemir from Maraş and his buddies.

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