Türkiye commemorates earthquake victims on Tuesday. A year after the devastating earthquakes, our correspondent Nick Augustin visited the disaster zone for the third time. An account of his journey through a country full of scars.
Twenty square metres: this is the “living space” that Ayşe, Menderes Şimşek and their four children have at their disposal. Their apartment no longer stands, like most buildings in the town of Nordacı in Gaziantep province. They have been residing in the living enclosure for about a year, which they mainly use as a place to sleep.
To pass the days, Menderes built a tent next to the container. They have a small kitchen and some seating. Aisha insists on preparing tea and breakfast. I managed to talk her out of that last part, but we'll have tea. She asks if I have any laundry left. Because then she can wash it with her for a while.
A day later, I spoke in Antakya, Hatay Province, with Mehmet Ali Durmaz and his niece Dilek from the Netherlands. A girl is just serving the delicious regional kunafa with a big smile. Of container, because many businessmen lost their business due to the earthquake. Daily life continues from those containers and others. Durmaz, like the Simsek family, no longer has a home and still wants to pay the bill. Fortunately, I can put a stop to that too.
Where there is no home, there remains hospitality. When buildings are level, the cuisine, traditions and customs remain intact. They are small points of light and connection in scarred towns and villages.
De aardbevingen van 6 februari in Turkije in cijfers
- De bevingen op 6 februari 2023 troffen een gebied bijna zo groot als Nederland en België samen.
- Zo’n 53.500 mensen kwamen om het leven in Turkije.
- Ruim 107.000 personen raakten gewond. Ook zijn er nog altijd vermisten.
- Bijna 690.000 mensen wonen nog steeds in containers.
- Ook in Syrië beefde de grond. Ook daar kwamen vele duizenden mensen om en zijn honderduizenden mensen ontheemd.
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New construction projects contrast with extensive damage
There are starting points in cities such as Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras. The damage was particularly enormous in the latter city and in the province of the same name. In the hills along the highway between Nordaci and Kahramanmaras you see major new construction projects. Significant progress is also being made in restoring the railway line that runs along the road.
In downtown Kahramanmaras, the city's many bare spots reveal the scale of the disaster. But here too there are construction sites and billboards for new construction projects. This also means that the dust clouds have not cleared yet. First the collapse, now the reconstruction. Walking a short distance can cause a sore throat.
In Gaziantep province, damage was locally extensive. The Nordagy district, where Simsek's family lives, has been largely destroyed. The city of 40,000 people is now made up largely of containers. Just like Aisha Simsek's children's school.
Uncertainty surrounding new homes
Just like in Kahramanmaraş, a huge new residential property is also being built in Nordacı. There are a number of new residential buildings directly in front of the container for Aisha and her family. Confrontational, because she has no idea if she qualifies for such a house. If so, when.
In Antakya, Durmaz was able to obtain a rental apartment by calling. He now lives with his wife and two children on the outskirts of the city. His lease expires in August. Rents have risen dramatically in the past year, and safe house prices have risen much more. There is no prospect of a new owner-occupied home in the city at this time. New projects under construction are far from the city and are also expensive. Also for people who have job like durmaz.
Sh., who does not want to reveal his full name, is forced to live in his brother’s house in the village of Oymakli, near the border with Syria. Before that, he lived in a tent with his family and three children for four months. His house in central Antakya no longer exists and he has no idea how to pay for the new house. However, he considers himself lucky, because the friends are in a container. Especially at this time of year there is the inconvenience of mud and flooding in the container areas.
Uncertainty about where and when a new home will be available causes uncertainty and frustration within families. “Everyone still has a title deed (the document you receive from the land registry after purchasing through which you qualify for a house from the state corporation TOKI, ed.),” Durmaz says. “Families who used to live together on the street or in the neighborhood have become separated. It is difficult to continue seeing each other.”
Welke hulp biedt de Turkse regering?
- De prijs voor een nieuwbouwappartement van TOKI is vastgesteld op 1,5 miljoen lira (45.712 euro). Dat bedrag geldt voor een appartement van ongeveer 100 vierkante meter.
- Daarvan betaalt de regering zestig procent.
- Voor de andere helft heb je een hypotheek nodig.
- De eerste twee jaar ben je vrijgesteld van hypotheekbetalingen.
- Daarna volgt een periode van tien jaar afbetaling zonder rente.
- De woning wordt niet automatisch overgedragen aan kinderen.
The devastation in Antakya is unparalleled
Hatay Province and the city of Antakya in particular suffered severe damage. The city center and surrounding neighborhoods are largely in ruins. Demolition and clean-up work continues unabated, but the extent of the destruction is so great that there appears to be no end in sight. The contrast with Kahramanmaraş, for example, which is completely untouched, is simply enormous.
The sound of excavators and drills can be heard until the evening. It is dark in many places in the city. Here and there street lights are back on, but of course there is no lighting in the ruins of homes and buildings. This makes walking or driving, which is already difficult during the day, a real challenge. Also because sometimes the streets no longer exist or are now mud paths strewn with rubble. These are just a few of the many inconveniences residents still have to deal with on a daily basis.
These same residents now view the government with suspicion. For months, there was a feeling that their district was being disenfranchised. Because people Not collectively They voted for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party. These fears appear to have been confirmed in the run-up to local elections scheduled for March 31.
Last Friday, Erdogan said in veiled terms that “services” were in Hatay depending on Vote for the Justice and Development Party. The dust clouds may have cleared, but the dark clouds haven't cleared for a while.
Verslaggever Nick Augusteijn
Deze reportage is geschreven door verslaggever Nick Augusteijn. Nick werkt sinds 2017 voor NU.nl, onder meer voor de algemene nieuwsredactie. Hij woont afwisselend in Nederland en Turkije en volgt het nieuws uit dat land op de voet.
“Pop culture enthusiast. Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Analyst. Student. Explorer.”