i24NEWS special envoy to Gaziantep, Turkey
In Turkey, those who survived have begun questioning whether there is someone to blame for the devastating damage that the quakes caused
Monday marked one month since major earthquakes hit northern Syria and southern Turkey, leaving over 50,000 people dead from collapsed buildings, freezing temperatures, and starvation under the rubble.
In Turkey, those who survived have begun questioning whether there is someone to blame for the damage that the quakes caused. For example, the apartment building Trend Garden in Malatya was only recently modernized. When the quakes hit, the building partially collapsed, leaving 29 of its residents dead.
After its refurbishment, Trend Garden had been registered without the necessary permits, thanks to a 2018 construction amnesty. Five weeks before the 2018 Turkish presidential election, the government permitted registration and gave occupancy permits to more than three million buildings not built according to regulations.
“We raised this issue as the chamber of civil engineers, along with other civil society organizations at the time,” said Erol Erdal, a member of the Malatya chamber of civil engineers.
“But unfortunately, this law was beneficial for people, the citizens could legalize the houses they constructed in the villages so they accepted it. People didn’t think that later on, this would cost them their lives,” he told i24NEWS.
An expected investigation will aim to show if the construction amnesty was responsible for the collapse of Trend Garden.
“It didn’t have a license, but later on it got one, and they benefited from the zoning amnesty. I don’t know how they got the license in this process, but somehow they got one,” said Feyza Yilmaz, a relative of victims who died in the collapse of Trend Garden.
The mayor of the majorly-affected city acknowledged the shortcomings of the authorities, but appealed for people to focus on what was ahead.
“Instead of getting stuck on the past, and what happened at a specific location, we need to plan for the future so the lessons we’ve learned this time around will make the future better, this is what I’m thinking,” said Malatya Mayor Selahattin Gurkan.
“If there is a mistake or a deficiency the state, state institutions, and state audit mechanisms will take action.”
Trend Garden was only one of many examples of possible governmental mismanagement, and while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to face elections later this year, the quakes and their repercussions are expected to play an important role in his campaign.