Turkey’s worst earthquake since 1939 has devastated 10 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, and the slowness of relief efforts has drawn criticism for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for the past 20 years.
According to the latest reports, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the earthquake-affected areas today and said that the death toll from the earthquake in Turkey has reached 21 thousand 43. Millions of buildings in the earthquake-affected areas have become uninhabitable. Steps will be taken to start reconstruction of the destroyed cities, action will be taken against those involved in looting and other crimes in the affected areas.
In addition, the number of deaths in Syria from the same earthquake has reached 3 thousand 553, the total number of deaths from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria has reached 24 thousand 596. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on Monday, January 6.
Erdogan’s admission of slow relief efforts
Elections in Turkey are scheduled for June 2023, but President Tayyip Erdogan has hinted that early elections could be held in May. In such a situation, this devastating earthquake and the resulting shortcomings have increased those who criticize Tayyip Erdogan, although the Turkish president has appealed to the nation to remain united in this difficult time, but the voices against him have started to rise. Have been
President Erdoğan has admitted to these opposing voices that there have been flaws in the aid activities, but he tried to put all the debris on fate, saying that ‘such things will always happen, it is part of destiny. .’
It should be noted that Turkey is located on two fault lines and building codes have been in place in the country for 80 years, but Monday’s two consecutive earthquakes were the strongest since 1939. The first earthquake struck at 4:17 a.m. with a magnitude of 7.8, while the second one, a magnitude of 7.5, occurred a few miles away.
Delay in search and rescue operation
The earthquake caused widespread destruction in 10 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, requiring a large-scale emergency rescue operation.
However, the rescue operation took a little longer than usual and in some villages teams could not reach for several days. 30 thousand people including professional rescue workers and volunteers came to the rescue operation in Turkey, while rescue teams from many other countries also reached Turkey.
More than 6,000 buildings were destroyed by the earthquake and the workers of Turkey’s official disaster authority ‘Afad’ were also affected. The early hours after the earthquake were critical, however, as roads were destroyed and rescue teams had difficulty reaching them, and in most of the affected areas teams arrived on the second or third day after the earthquake.
Criticism of the delay in sending the Turkish army in the rescue operation
No country in the world has experienced earthquakes as much as Turkey, but the head of the country’s main volunteer rescue group, the Akhot Search and Rescue Association, feels that this time politics has come to the fore.
After Turkey’s last major earthquake in 1999, the Turkish military led search and rescue operations, but President Erdogan is said to have since tried to limit the military’s power in Turkish society.
The head of the Brotherhood, Ali Nasuah Mahiruki, told the British Broadcasting Corporation that “the armed forces are the most organized and logistically powerful organizations in the world, they have many methods, so you have to use them in disasters like this.” It has to be done.’
It should be noted that in the recent earthquake, instead of the army, the Civil Disaster Authority of Turkey is leading the rescue operation, which has a workforce of between 10 and 15 thousand. There are close volunteers.
Mahiruki says that the current rescue and search operation is bigger than 1999, but since the government did not involve the army in the planning, he had to wait for government orders to start the rescue operation. had to wait for orders from the , which delayed the start of the search and rescue operation.
Tayyip Erdogan himself admitted that the search operation was not as swift as the government had hoped, even though Turkey currently has the world’s largest search and rescue team.
Alleged disregard of prior warnings
For years Turks have been warned that they may experience a major earthquake, but some have attributed the warning only to the East Anatolian Fault, as most major tremors are felt along this fault line.
When the earthquake occurred in Al-Azgh in January 2020, Geological Engineer Professor Nasi Gurr of Istanbul Technical University realized the danger, he also predicted that an earthquake could occur in the north of Adyaman and in the city of Qerman Marash.
“I informed the local government, the governors and the central government, I told them to please take measures to prepare their cities for earthquakes, we cannot stop them,” he told the BBC. But they can reduce the amount of destruction caused by them.’
Not following the law in construction of buildings
Professor Mustafa Erdik, Turkey’s leading earth-quick engineering specialist, believes that the massive loss of life was due to non-compliance with the law in the construction of buildings. They say that there is damage but there should not be such damage, just as layers are placed on top of a cake, this practice should have been stopped and therefore widely known. The damage was done.
According to Turkish law, which was updated in 2018, high-quality concrete must be used in the construction of buildings, while columns and beams must be strong enough to easily withstand shocks.
Professor Erdik says that if the law had been followed, the pillars would not have fallen and any damage would have been due to the falling of the beams, but here only the pillars broke, due to which one floor fell on top of the other. and there was heavy loss of life.
In this matter, the Minister of Justice has said that whoever is found guilty will be punished.
The issue of earthquake tax
Turkey’s opposition parties and critics also question the use of the earthquake tax. The head of the opposition party CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, says that despite being in power for 20 years, President Erdoğan has not prepared the country for earthquakes.
A question is also being raised as to where the huge amount of money collected under the two ‘earthquake solidarity taxes’ imposed after the 1999 earthquake is being spent even though these funds were supposed to be used to construct earthquake-proof buildings. .
According to the BBC, one of these taxes is still being collected from mobile phone operators and radio and TV operators, and has collected an estimated 88 billion lira ($4.6 billion) in government coffers. Two years ago, this tax was also increased by 10%, but the government never fully disclosed where the money was spent.
Urban planners complain that laws are not enforced in earthquake-prone areas, and in 2018 a construction amnesty scheme was introduced to get away with fines for construction violations. 6 million buildings were taken over and changes could not be made as per the law.
These fines earned the Turkish government billions of liras, but in 2019, a building collapsed in Istanbul, killing 21 people. At that time, the head of the Chamber of Civil Engineers said that this amnesty would turn Turkish cities into graveyards.
According to the BBC, Pelin Pinar of Istanbul University said that more than 100,000 applications were received from the 10 cities affected by the recent earthquake to benefit from the amnesty scheme, and the same amnesty scheme was behind the large-scale collapse of buildings in the recent earthquake. has a hand.
The political landscape
Political discord is growing in Turkey. Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for 20 years, is likened to a dictator by his opponents and accused of using force.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu says he will field a strong consensus candidate to defeat Tayyip Erdogan in a possible presidential election in May.
Apart from this, the Turkish economy is also struggling and the prices of daily necessities are also skyrocketing.
After the earthquake, the government’s decision to block Twitter is also being criticized. In this regard, the Turkish government says that this step was taken to stop rumours.
Critics say the recent earthquake will certainly affect the upcoming presidential election, but it is too early to say how much it will hurt Erdogan.