site.btaSurvivor of Devastating Gaziantep Quake: Our World Fell Apart, Nothing Will Be Like Before
"The first quake hit us at night. Until the sixth day we were all sleeping in the car," journalist Meral Ay of Gaziantep TV radio and the Gunesh media group in Gaziantep told BTA. Of the many who survived the devastating 7.7 and 7.6 Richter earthquakes in Kahramanmaras on February 6, she is among the few in the neighborhood whose homes have survived.
After six days of living in the car, a committee made an inspection, gave a positive conclusion and they were allowed to return home. "The children are alive and well, but they were very scared. Thousands of people are in shock - they have lost dozens of loved ones, no homes, no livelihoods."
Just three weeks ago Gaziantep had the reputation of being the culinary capital of Turkiye, awarded by UNESCO. With its unique Mosaic Museum, which is the second most important in the world, its ancient historical sites, its colorful restaurants and entertainment, this picturesque city in the southeast with a population of over 1.5 million was attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world.
February 6 put Gaziantep among the hardest hit by the devastating quake in 11 provinces in Southeastern Anatolia, where a state of emergency was declared.
According to Meral Ay, in the first days of the quake, serious coordination failures were made, which complicated the situation. In many places, people whose relatives were under the ruins, waited in vain for rescuers to arrive; there was no bread, no food, no water. The city was like a ghost town, strewn with rubble, filled with people mourning the dead or waiting for rescuers to come. Cold, dark...
According to her, the population was totally unprepared for such a disaster.
"The earthquakes that hit us are really a huge disaster, experts say they are unparalleled. We were not at all prepared for such a thing. There were a lot of buildings being constructed, all nice buildings, but it turned out that they were built poorly, with sea sand, not adapted to the earthquake situation of the area. The building stock is the big problem. There are hardly any buildings left intact in our neighborhood. Many, many people died, the number continues to grow, many will remain disabled perhaps for life. It's sad and hopeless," she said.
According to Meral Ay, there are huge problems to be solved for local authorities and government institutions. One of them is internal migration, which will drag other problems. About 40% of Gaziantep's population has migrated to major metropolises - Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir. Renovating the building stock, strengthening infrastructure, transport and communication links will take money and labor.
"But the most frightening thing is the trauma that the disaster has inflicted on our minds and hearts, which is perhaps more frightening than the earthquakes because there is no end. No matter how many years pass, what we have experienced will not be forgotten. However, let us hope that it will become an occasion for a change in the thinking and criteria of both the responsible institutions and the citizens themselves," the journalist said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the construction of 1,797 new buildings will begin in Gaziantep.
"We signed the first contracts at the sites where the geological and field studies for 200,000 homes were completed. The construction of 456 residential buildings in the city of Nurdagh, 645 in the city of Kilis, which is 90 km away from the border with Syria, and 287 in Adıyaman-Kahta began immediately," he announced.