Turkey eyes reconstruction after deadly earthquake as Syrians seek more aid

Turkey turned its focus to reconstruction on Wednesday, encouraging those in quake-hit areas whose buildings have been deemed safe to return home, Reuters reported.

In neighboring Syria’s opposition-held northwest, which was already suffering from more than a decade of bombardment, the earthquake left many war-weary families fending for themselves amid the rubble, with international aid arriving slowly.

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, and rescues now few and far between.

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

But the government encouraged people to go back home – if they can, based on government checks.

“We want citizens to track their building’s status on the online system and get back into the buildings which receive safe building report from the urbanization ministry, 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.

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

The rescue mission

A 42-year-old woman was rescued from the rubble of a building in the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras on Wednesday (February 15), almost 222 hours after a devastating earthquake struck the region, Turkish media reported.

Video footage released by local rescue services showed rescue workers carrying the woman, named Melike Imamoglu, strapped onto a stretcher, to an ambulance.

The disaster, with a combined death toll in Turkey and neighbouring Syria exceeding 41,000, has ravaged cities in both countries, leaving many survivors homeless in near-freezing winter temperatures.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday (February 14) acknowledged problems in the initial response to the 7.8 magnitude quake that struck early on February 6 but has said the situation is now under control.