Istanbul, Feb 27 (IANS) The devastating earthquakes which hit southern Turkey earlier this month caused major internal displacement, resulting in a significant strain on resources in major cities around the country.
Not only did the February 6 twin earthquakes kill 44,374 people, they also left 164,321 buildings either “collapsed, on the verge of collapse or with severe structural damage”, which amounts to around 520,000 individual apartments, according to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, Xinhua news agency reported.
Many survivors left the 10 provinces hit hardest by the earthquakes and moved to neighboring cities or the country’s largest urban centers.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority has relocated 528,146 people in the three weeks following the earthquakes, but countless more have left by their own means.
The local daily Birgun reported that 2.5 million cell phones active in the affected provinces the day before the earthquakes were detected in other cities a few days later. Factoring in the number of phone-less children who would have also left with their families, Birgun estimated that around five million people were displaced.
One of the most significant influxes of earthquake survivors occurred in the southern province of Mersin. The city of nearly two million people took in around 400,000 earthquake survivors in addition to the 237,466 Syrian refugees already living there.
Last week, organisations belonging to the Mersin Commodities Exchange released a statement calling on Ankara to provide aid, whcih read: “The unplanned but unavoidable relocation to Mersin in the wake of the disaster has strained the city’s resources, particularly with regards to infrastructure, shelter, and transportation, turning the migration wave into a social disaster.”
The statement requested that the government factor in the influx of new arrivals when distributing emergency relief and speed up ongoing projects that will strengthen the city’s industrial, economic, and transportation capacity.
Meanwhile, another 140,000 survivors flocked to the touristic seaside province of Antalya, according to the latest figures shared by Antalya Governor Ersin Yazici. With nearly 75,000 people staying at hotels, motels, and other guest facilities, the popular summer destination is currently over capacity.
One major concern is education. Yazici noted that they’ve identified 12,000 school-aged children among the survivors and that they are currently figuring out how to incorporate them into the academic semester.
While there are no specific numbers for migration to Turkey’s three largest cities — Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir — they have all taken in large numbers of survivors. According to experts, the capital Ankara, located in the center of the country and relatively closer to the earthquake zone, has taken in the most of any Turkish city.
Adding to the increased demand from newcomers is increased demand from people already residing in major urban centers, who have begun moving out of earthquake-prone districts to newer, safer buildings. This increased demand has led to skyrocketing rents, which has been noticed by the government.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Saturday that they are working on strict penalties for anyone “trying to take advantage of the hardships brought on by the earthquakes to make unjust, unethical, and illegal profits”. These include such practices as overcharging for rent, moving, or rendering any other services.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t just Turkish citizens who were displaced out of the earthquake zone. The local daily Haberturk reported that 35,000 Syrian refugees had returned home in the two weeks following the earthquakes. It also noted that another 2,000 deceased were sent back to Syria. Out of the four million Syrian refugees currently residing in T�rkiye, 1.7 million are in the 10 provinces hit by the earthquakes.