Earthquakes silence machine in the capital of yarn

Earthquakes silence machine in the capital of yarn

Yasemin Salih - ISTANBUL
Earthquakes silence machine in the capital of yarn

In Kahramanmaraş, the epicenter of the disaster of the century, the machines that produce yarn for the whole world are silent. Most of the factories, which employ 155,000 textile workers and are home to some of Türkiye’s best spinners, have been destroyed.

In factories with intact buildings, the spinning machines are damaged. Kahramanmaraş is the heart of Turkish yarn production. The annual contribution of the city’s 360 exporters to Türkiye’s foreign trade is about $1 billion. But these facilities, which were at the heart of the great destruction, suffered an unprecedented loss from workers to artisans, from managers to bosses.

Fatih Mehmet Zülkadiroğlu, a mechanical engineer who has set up yarn factories not only in the southeastern region but also in countries from India to Germany, has been receiving non-stop calls since Feb. 6’s earthquake.

“We have been setting up yarn factories all over the region for years,” said Zülkadiroğlu, the chairman of the board of Teco Tekstil.

“We bring spinning machines from Europe, transport second-hand machines here to countries like Iran and Pakistan and build new factories there. The earthquake caused a lot of damage to the spinning factories in Kahramanmaraş. I have received many phone messages from my customers saying ‘brother, how can we sell my machine.’”

Zülkadiroğlu explained that 30-35 percent of the spinning machines in Kahramanmaraş have become unusable, and that 15-20 percent of them will be scrapped.

“We have surveyed the region,” he said. “The damage is very big. Buildings have collapsed, and the machines in those that have not collapsed have become unusable.”

Zülkadiroğlu said that he told the yarn factory owners “sell, get rid of, buy a new one” when they asked about what they should do.

“European quality production is made in Kahramanmaraş,” he said.

“These machines work at high speed, they should be at least 95 percent efficient. At 80 percent, they make a loss, because energy and labor are expensive. Besides, the foremen have left Kahramanmaraş. We will sell the machines as second-hand to countries like India, Pakistan, Iran and Egypt.”

Zülkadiroğlu said some of the machines in the city had been planned to be renewed.

“During the pandemic, old yarn manufacturers in the city were given incentives to renew their machines,” he said.

“We had placed new orders and were selling the old ones to make room. Some of the new machines were due to arrive this year. This is an advantage, but more earthquakes are expected. A spinning machine costs 10-20 million euros, and owners are afraid to put them inside buildings.”

Abdülkadir Konukoğlu, chairman of the board of directors of Sanko Holding, which has many factories in the earthquake zone, said, “We will start this week 10 percent capacity in Adıyaman, and 20 percent will be added each week. We are supporting all our employees in the earthquake zone with 10,000 Turkish Liras each. We are setting up containers near the factories where they can stay with their families.”

Hanefi Öksüz, chairman of Kahramanmaraş-based Kipaş Holding, described the situation in the city as chaotic.

“We have experienced a huge disaster, I guess a bigger one would be the apocalypse,” he said.

“Our employees are gone. We have prepared a project of 500 houses for the workers, then we will increase the number to 1,000. As industrialists, we have to find ways to prevent emigration.”