Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid his second visit to provinces devastated by the February 6 earthquake on Monday, February 20, 2023, as search and rescue efforts for buried survivors in the worst disaster in modern Turkish history are winding down.
Search and rescue operations for survivors have been called off in most of the quake zone, but AFAD Chief, Yunus Sezer told reporters that search teams were pressing ahead with their efforts in more than a dozen collapsed buildings, most of them in the hardest-hit province of Hatay.
There were no signs of anyone being alive under the rubble since three members of one family; a mother, father and 12-year-old boy, were extracted from a collapsed building in Hatay on Saturday, February 18, 2023. The boy later died.
The Turkish disaster management agency, AFAD, has raised the number of confirmed fatalities from the earthquake in Turkey to 41,156. That increases the overall death toll in both Turkey and Syria to 44,844.
Meanwhile, The European Union’s health agency has warned of the risk of disease outbreaks in the coming weeks.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control(ECDC) said that “food and water-borne diseases, respiratory infections and vaccine-preventable infections are a risk in the upcoming period, with the potential to cause outbreaks, particularly as survivors are moving to temporary shelters.”
“A surge of cholera cases in the affected areas is a significant possibility in the coming weeks,” it said, noting that authorities in northwestern Syria have reported thousands of cases of the disease since last September and a planned vaccination campaign was delayed due to the quake.
The ECDC also warned of viral infections such as hepatitis A, parasites and bacterial infections that can all be spread by difficult hygiene conditions in emergency shelters and camps.
Also, in Syria, the Minister of Public Works and Housing, Suhail Abdul Latif, has announced that the Syrian government will secure 350 housing units for people displaced by the earthquake and made a call for “friendly countries” to send more.
“We will secure the affected people within our capabilities, but after a while, it is not possible to continue placing families in shelters in order to preserve their health,” Suhail Abdul Latif said.
Housing has been a pressing need in all the earthquake-hit areas, with many families sleeping in makeshift tents or cramming into crowded schools and sports stadiums.
Reconstruction To Start In March
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces elections in May or June, has disclosed that his country will start building tens of thousands of new homes as early as next month.
Erdogan remarked that the new buildings will be no taller than three or four stories, built on firmer ground and to higher standards and in consultation with “geophysics, geotechnical, geology and seismology professors” and other experts.
“We want to avoid disasters … by shifting our settlements away from the lowlands to the (more solid) mountains as much as possible,” Erdogan declared in a televised address during a visit to hard-hit Hatay province.
The Turkish leader added that destroyed cultural monuments would be rebuilt in accordance with their “historic and cultural texture.”
Erdogan said around 1.6 million people are currently being housed in temporary shelters.
In other developments, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO), of which Turkey is a member, disclosed that a ship carrying 600 temporary container homes has left Italy and is expected to arrive in Turkey next week.
The military alliance has pledged to send more than 1,000 containers that will serve as temporary shelters for at least 4,000 people left homeless by the earthquake.
NATO Chief, Jens Stoltenberg, who visited the quake-devastated region last week, called it the worst disaster in the alliance’s history.
Authorities say more than 110,000 buildings across 11 quake-hit Turkish provinces were either destroyed or so severely damaged that they need to be torn down.