(Istanbul) The earthquake that struck Turkey on February 6 at 4:17 am, “the worst natural disaster in a century in Europe”, according to the World Health Organization, left a country traumatized.
Dead relatives, cities in ruins, new life in tents or containers: a month later, millions of Turks are facing the serious consequences of the disaster.
What human and material balances?
The 7.8 magnitude tremor – followed by another 7.6 hours later – killed nearly 46,000 people (whose bodies were found) and injured 105,000 in Turkey, according to reports no doubt incomplete. It also destroyed or condemned 214,000 buildings – sometimes more than a dozen stories high – in eleven of the country’s 81 provinces.
Nearly 6,000 people also lost their lives in Syria.
Turkish towns in the provinces of Kahramanmaras near the epicenter and Hatay on the Syrian border have been devastated, forcing authorities to hastily bury thousands of people in improvised cemeteries dug in fields and in forest, after a hasty farewell.
Authorities estimate that 14 million people have been affected by the earthquake, one-sixth of Turkey’s population. Among them, 3.3 million had to leave the disaster areas, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Nearly 2 million people are currently living in tents or in containers.
More than 13,000 aftershocks have been recorded in a month and this earth which continued to shake on Saturday maintains panic in the country, located on one of the most active seismic zones in the world.
In the affected areas, the anger remains strong against the State which took up to 50 hours to deploy relief, in particular the army and its means, while tens of thousands of people alive were prisoners of the rubble.
President Erdogan has acknowledged delays, blamed in part on bad weather and the magnitude of the disaster which spans 20,000 km2and asked for forgiveness from the survivors.
Opinion polls show, however, that it is the developers and contractors whose buildings have collapsed like houses of cards who are considered to be primarily responsible for the heavy toll.
Legal proceedings have been initiated against 612 people involved in the construction of these buildings, the Turkish Minister of Justice announced at the end of February. Several were arrested as they attempted to flee the country.
But no official has tendered his resignation or been removed from office except for the AKP (the president’s party) mayor of a small town.
What cost for the economy?
The Turkish economy, which was already going through a period of turbulence linked to high inflation and the collapse of the currency for eighteen months, must now absorb the consequences of the earthquake.
The devastating quake and its aftershocks caused damage worth more than 34 billion dollars, or 4% of Turkey’s GDP, the World Bank estimated on February 27.
This estimate does not take into account the reconstruction costs, “potentially twice as high” according to her, nor the consequences on future Turkish growth.
Mr. Erdogan has promised to build “within a year” more than 450,000 homes to anti-seismic standards and announced the payment of 100,000 Turkish liras (CAN $ 7,200) to relatives of deceased persons.
Nearly a million people affected by the earthquake have already received aid of 10,000 pounds, the head of state announced on Wednesday.
Specific resettlement aid, amounting to 15,000 Turkish liras ($1,080 CAN) is also promised.
“The reconstruction work could largely offset the negative impact (of the earthquake) on economic activity,” said the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
What political consequences?
Mr. Erdogan put an end to speculation on Wednesday by confirming the holding of presidential and legislative elections on the scheduled date of May 14.
In power for twenty years and candidate for his succession, he now makes the reconstruction of devastated areas his guideline. However, the May 14 election promises to be the most dangerous for him since 2003.
The opposition, which has tried to unite in a National Alliance of six parties, should officially invest its sole candidate on Monday. But the choice of Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the CHP, the main opposition party in parliament, has already shattered the coalition on Friday.