Turkey Seizes Earthquake Survivors' Homes

earthquake

A year after a devastating earthquake shattered southern Turkey, survivors face a new shock: the government seizing their damaged homes.

Habip Yapar, whose apartment in Hatay province miraculously survived the February 2023 earthquake, received a text message in October informing him the government was taking ownership. This act, based on an urban planning amendment, is intended to expedite reconstruction in hard-hit areas.

Minister Mehmet Ozhaseki claims the amendment grants authorities necessary power for quicker rebuilding. However, the process has caused immense confusion and anxiety.

Hatay, the region suffering the brunt of the earthquake's wrath, also faces the slowest reconstruction efforts. Ambitious deadlines set by President Erdogan haven't been met.

The seizures aim to create temporary "reserve building areas" for reconstruction. Affected homeowners would be entitled to new property after contributing to construction costs, but details remain unclear.

Earthquake insurance is mandatory in Turkey, but enforcement is lax, and coverage often falls short of rebuilding costs.

Interviews with residents, lawyers, and local officials reveal a lack of transparency. Thousands learned about property seizures through social media, some even before the amendment's official passage.

Five months on, crucial details like cost-sharing burden, compensation plans, and the duration of government ownership remain unanswered.

The situation adds to the struggles of hundreds of thousands still living in temporary housing. Many lost their homes entirely; others were forced to move due to seizure notices.

The Hatay governor's office vaguely mentions replacing seized properties with nearly 44,000 new homes. It hasn't provided a figure on how many properties will be seized, nor responded to inquiries.

Erdogan pledged 254,000 new homes for the province, but only 7,300 are completed. Officials blame funding limitations and rising costs.

Some see this as a political motive. Hatay is an opposition stronghold, and Erdogan seeks inroads in upcoming elections. His recent speech in the province sparked speculation that reconstruction aid is linked to voting loyalty, a claim Erdogan denies.

With reconstruction lagging and homes being seized, survivors face an uncertain future, adding to the trauma of the earthquake itself.

(Source: Reuters)

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