After the earthquakes

The recent earthquake(s) in Turkey, which can be described as the worst natural disaster ever happened in Turkey, majorly hit 10 cities in southeastern part of the country, bordering Syria, as Kahramanmaraş, Hatay, Gaziantep, Osmaniye, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa, Adıyaman ve Kilis, with two major strikes in two days, on February 6, also with countless aftershocks. The rescue operations still continue in many cities, mostly in Adana, Hatay, Adiyaman, Kahramanmaras, Osmaniye, Diyarbakir and Gaziantep while the operations were halted in Kilis and Sanliurfa on February 10. Regarding the news from the region, the witnesses say that there are still many people, more than rescued, stuck under debris while the current death toll is just over 20,000 by February 11 and the number is unfortunately expected to rise by many experts, and the mentioned number is around 100,000. It is important to note that the earthquake also drastically affected the northern part of Syria, across the border; yet it is not easy to receive any up to date news from these cities due to the conditions of irregularity in the region.

According to the reports of rescue organizations in 10 cities mentioned above, the primary needs are basic stoves, for both heating and cooking, winter tents, isolation materials to prevent night frost and mobile toilets which are becoming a huge necessity every day due to the lack of proper infrastructure. Mobile charge stations are also becoming an issue for proper communication. These are the most technical needs at the moment, besides that, food, water, clothes, blankets and other basic necessities have been provided with an unbelievably great solidarity led by civil society initiatives via donations so far; despite the insufficient logistical organization in the earthquake zone.

On the other hand, newsmaking and reporting are problematic; there is a systematic blockage against independent journalists in many places, due to the criminal side of the events. The region is well known with its earthquake potential and the regulations apparently have not been applied at all by owners, construction companies or by the technical control mechanism, which consists of local governments and the ministry units. These formal actors are also responsible for the situation and many experts highlight that this part should not be forgotten and people should be well informed about the wrong applications, irresponsible management and lack of governance before and after in general. This is an important topic to consider, since Turkey has been suffering from earthquakes, as well as from irregular urbanization and its consequences. Moreover, the major roads are also badly damaged and the intercity mobility is very limited, which affects the general supply chain between the cities; thus causing huge problems about physical connection and the delivery of necessary aid.

There are some future expectations: the earthquake victims, which have the means, will be moving to the western cities, starting with Mersin. This will create an internal momentum, a disaster-migration of thousands in Turkiye. This grand movement already started with temporary intentions, yet it is visible that people will be staying much longer, or permanently, in where they moved to. Moreover, the people who don't have the opportunities to move to other cities will be residing in tents first and then in container cities probably, in the earthquake region and this is expected to go on more than 5 years ahead. The container cities will be a part of the public life in the region; where this temporary and unfortunate urban life should be well planned to prevent any integration problem ahead. Last but not the least, there are many organizations, big or small, trying to provide different kinds of support in their expertise areas. The rescue operations are supported by miner unions and mountaineer initiatives while professional organizations run their campaigns on providing proper crisis response. The donations are usually preferred to be transferred to non-governmental organizations and local associations active in the field, instead of public bodies. Additionally, it is important to underline that the general education, including universities, has been totally converted into remote-education by February 11 in whole country, which is majorly criticized at the moment. The student dormitories all over the country are currently being converted to host earthquake victims, despite other potential opportunities that the government can provide.

For instance, with our cooperative organization Urban.koop, we are trying to design and hand out 'heater kits' that people can build their own small basic stoves for heating and cooking in their tents or open-air. We have already created the blueprints and assembly diagrams and are now in touch with some producers, to be sponsored by a couple of companies for mass production in the region; and distributed to the victims via municipal organs afterwards. The units are called 'Pocket Rocket', a well known basic heater unit made of metal buckets and pipes. What we might need at the moment is to create a strong visibility campaign on this issue to reach more people and partners for scaling up, for the time that we are going to be ready. We are currently planning to release the first kits in the region, by this week, as February 13-17.


Onur Atay

İstanbul, 12.02.2023