Sunday, April 21, 2024

Erdogan visits disaster-hit region of Turkey as deaths continue to rise

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has visited southern Turkey to inspect the areas badly affected by the magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes that hit the country earlier this week. Anger grew among local people over what they say was a slow Ankara's response to the rescue and relief effort.

Wednesday’s visit takes place the day after President Erdogan declared a three-month-long state of emergency in the 10 provinces hit by the quake.

The Turkish president has tasked all of the ministers in his cabinet and Vice President Fuat Oktay to handle the situation and to establish coordination in the area.

In the first leg of his visit, Erdogan visited a football stadium in Onikisubat district, Kahramanmaras where a tent city was set up for the victims before heading to the Pazarcik district, the epicentre of one of the two major earthquakes that struck on Monday.

“In a year, we are planning to rebuild these 10 provinces as we did in previous earthquake-hit provinces,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president added that the government has made negotiations with the hotels in Antalya, Alanya, and Mersin to house the victims.

The quake toppled thousands of buildings including hospitals, schools and apartment blocks, injured tens of thousands, and left countless people homeless in Turkey.

“We are ready to place them in hotels in these cities,” he said, adding that the government will also provide 10,000 Turkish liras ($531) to families affected by the quake.

The president has confirmed that the death toll in the country from the earthquakes has reached 8,574, even as rescue workers are continuing to search for victims buried under mountains of rubble.

At least 2,530 people have died in Syria, according to a tally of numbers made public by the government in Damascus and rescue groups in rebel-held regions, taking the total death toll from the earthquakes to in excess of 11,000.

Erdogan will later travel to another southern province of Hatay to carry out inspections there.

Many in the Turkish disaster zone had slept in their cars or in the streets under blankets, fearful of going back into buildings shaken by the 7.8 magnitude tremor – Turkey’s deadliest since 1999 – and by a second powerful quake hours later.

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