On 6th February 2023, at 4.17 am, two earthquakes with magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.6 hit Türkiye, affecting 11 provinces Adana, Adıyaman, Hatay, Malatya, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa, Osmaniye, Gaziantep, Kilis, Elazığ including its epicenter Kahramanmaraş. With the disaster being the second-deadliest earthquake, 50.783 people passed away. On the other hand, both the survivors of the earthquake and citizens all over Türkiye were left wretched due to the psychological wounds caused by this vast number of losses.
The scenery in the affected cities depicted the misery and desperation of the 3.5 million people, who used to live in the provinces declared as earthquake regions, as the screams begging for help arose and slowly disappeared, leaving behind corpses waiting to be found, at least to be buried. The damage caused by the huge disaster was particularly destructive, and its harm was much more devastating than expected, considering the number of damaged and destroyed buildings and the physical and economic damage. The thousands of devastated and desperate people ultimately found the fault in the buildings. Whether it was corruption during the construction of the city’s buildings or the low quality of products used, citizens were assured that the building contractors were among the biggest causes of their pain.
Since Türkiye has a strong history with damaging earthquakes, many experts are continuously trying to predict the upcoming ones. The same was true for this earthquake: Naci Görür, a well-known Turkish geologist and seismologist, had voiced that an earthquake with a high seismic activity would occur at some point in this specific area 10 months before the disaster. Yet, proper precautions weren’t taken and monitored by the officials, resulting in the deterioration of the consequences. Therefore, the lack of precautionary measures can be counted as one of the major reasons behind the severity of aftermath.
Nevertheless, there were several controversial issues in Turkish politics that were mentioned through social media platforms, especially Twitter, which made the 85 million people even more concerned. For instance, in one of his speeches, the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, stated that it was “impossible to prepare for the scale of the disaster.” Citizens, furious and discontent with his answer, directed him the question:“ Isn’t the government of the Türkiye capable of taking basic precautions at least to quell the devastating damage?”
Moreover, another critical reason for destructive consequences was the coordination issues within the rescuing process. Even though the government is aware that Türkiye can experience such high-magnitude earthquakes any day, due to its geographical location, a detailed plan in case of an emergency wasn’t made. As a result, so many groups were unsure about who would take charge in an emergency. Numerous people affected by the earthquake argue that the authorities did not coordinate well, which resulted in dozens of catastrophic delays. The government’s failure to administrate the critical time period after the disaster indicated the fact that there must be a change. Meanwhile, other people still defended that the government was doing its best in order to maintain the tasks properly. However, many things, from determining the location of people under the rubbles to directing rescue squads to the area, many things seemed to lack coordination, leading to many agonistic losses. Due to the earthquake emerging before the May 2023 elections, malfunctions during the state of emergency brought about propaganda rooting against the government. These propagandas were conducted in order to emphasize the failure of the government officials and alter the public's opinion on the government’s success of the administration.
Multiple rescue teams spent weeks in the ruined cities trying to offer medical treatment to citizens, to find potential survivors or even dead bodies.
Ultimately, the victims were once again forgotten and left alone to heal their own wounds, by the government and the media. People who had been severely affected by the earthquake were still looking forward to the economic assistance promised by the government, which offered help for accommodation and job opportunities.
On March 21, 2023, a presidential decree was published as a response to the victims, which gave them some advantages. It proposed helping these vulnerable people by exempting them from paying energy bills, starting from February 6th. The proposal conveyed that these bills would be paid by “The Ministry of Natural and Energy Sources.”
Aside from the political aspect of the issue, you might be wondering where the residents who were forced to flee their home city are currently staying. They are encountering the infamous behavior of hirers, who only accept lessors that can afford to pay unreasonable rents, when they are trying to find a new home for themselves. For instance, Hakan Akçam, President of the Ankara Professional Chamber of All Realtors, indicated that the housing need in Ankara has increased with the earthquake victims, and the rents have increased by around 150-200%. These people are now staying in rental houses, living quarters, student dormitories, or guesthouses and are continuously wondering what the government plans to do in order to help them establish their new layout.
In short, in the early months of 2023, Turkish people collectively went through one of their most tragic episodes. Whether living in these seven regions or not, everyone uniformly mourned the agonizing earthquake for months. Despite the earthquake victims hopefully waiting for help from the government, efficient operations have still not been performed by the power holders. Now that the winter is almost here, people question the government’s plans for these victims who are seeking shelters all across the country.
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