In the aftermath of the 7.8 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes on 6 February last year, Nurdağı in Gaziantep (Dîlok) province remains in ruins with thousands of buildings affected, and in Malatya (Meletî) province, the much-promised reconstructions have yet to come to fruition, leaving many residents in a state of limbo, two detailed reports by Mezopotamya Agency’s Ceylan Şahinli revealed on Sunday.
Gaziantep’s Nurdağı town still a heap of rubble one year after
Gaziantep’s Nurdağı district remains devastated a year after the earthquakes, with thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged, amid mounting challenges for residents.
Nurdağı and other districts of Gaziantep have yet to recover from the effects of the earthquakes, reports MA’s Ceyhan Şahinli, citing witness accounts from survivors. The quakes left a trail of destruction, with over 5,000 homes collapsed and more than 24,000 buildings damaged in the region. Nurdağı, which saw the some of the worst of the devastation, is now a desert of debris.
The majority of the collapsed structures in Nurdağı, which suffered significantly in terms of loss of population and infrastructure, were multi-storey buildings constructed just 5-6 years prior to the disaster. It was revealed that many of these belonged to a company owned by Yunus Kaya, a member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a member of Nurdağı municipal council. The situation was compounded when the mayor, also an AKP member, was arrested and charged on two separate occasions amidst public outcry over his role in the construction of deficient buildings.
The currrent situation is that the district has seen a mass exodus, with 70% of the population, which includes a significant number of Syrian refugees, having relocated. Many of those who remain are residing in makeshift container camps and struggle with escalated rent prices and inadequate living conditions. The removal of debris, contracted out to private companies, has led to environmental concerns, particularly around agricultural and water resources.
Healthcare, education, and transportation services are severely hampered, with the nearest functioning hospitals located a significant distance from the affected areas. The education sector has also taken a hit, with many teachers requesting transfers out of the region. The positions of residents like 80-year-old Remzi Sağlam, who has to guard his slightly damaged home against potential burglary, and teacher Kemal Coşkun, who is now of necessity living in a container camp, highlight the dire circumstances faced by the community.
While the neighbouring district of İslahiye is faring slightly better, primarily due to its agricultural base, it too faces challenges with housing prices soaring and a partial recovery in its population post-earthquake. A dearth of medical professionals and severely damaged infrastructure, compounded by the ongoing displacement and construction delays, highlight the profound impact of the earthquake on the region’s social fabric and foundations.
Post-earthquake reconstruction of Malatya on hold
In Malatya (Meletî), debris clearance has been delayed and the promise of new homes unfulfilled in the aftermath of the earthquakes, with many residents still awaiting a return to normality.
Following the catastrophic earthquakes on 6 February 2023, Malatya faces a prolonged recovery, with significant delays in debris removal and construction efforts, reports MA’s Ceylan Şahinli. The quakes, particularly the second tremor, inflicted severe damage on the city, resulting in the deaths of 1,337 people and over 6,444 injured.
Malatya’s then-governor Hulusi Şahin had announced that one-third of the city’s buildings would need demolition, a process that continues under strict supervision. Despite Malatya Metropolitan Mayor Selahattin Gürkan’s claims that progress is being made with the demolitions, the reality on the ground reflects a substantial backlog, with many ruins yet to be cleared.
The city’s attempt to address housing crises by the use of container camps has seen 112,454 earthquake survivors residing in 28,643 containers spread across 74 locations. However, these temporary shelters present their own set of challenges, including insulation issues and the psychological toll of living in close quarters without privacy.
A promise by the Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change to supply 103,019 new homes remains largely unfulfilled, leaving the community in uncertainty. Construction sites spread across 14 neighbourhoods have yet to yield significant progress, with the delivery of 6,100 disaster homes anticipated by February remaining uncertain.
The central business district, especially its main street Halep Caddesi, is a powerful symbol of the economic impact of the quake, with most businesses having been either destroyed or severely damaged. The struggle for normality is palpable among the local traders, many of whom have either relocated or are grappling with the challenges of operating out of makeshift setups due to the lack of formal support for rebuilding their enterprises.
As Malatya grapples with the physical reconstruction, the social fabric of the city is strained, with noticeable migration out of the city due to unresolved housing, employment and health concerns. The delays in reconstruction and the lack of clear communication from the authorities only exacerbate the community’s plight, leaving many to wonder about the city’s future resilience and path to recovery.