Gov’t kicks off urgent urban transformation for quake-hit cities

Gov’t kicks off urgent urban transformation for quake-hit cities

Gov’t kicks off urgent urban transformation for quake-hit cities

Ministers Murat Kurum (L), Süleyman Soylu, Fahrettin Koca and Abdulhamit Gül (R) held a press conference in quake-hit Elazığ, Turkey, on Jan. 27, 2020. (AA Photo)

In the wake of a 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 24 that claimed at least 40 lives, the government is set to kick off an urban transformation project in the eastern province of Elazığ after what it saw as a wake-up call following the collapse of several earthquake-prone buildings, vowing to replace them with disaster-resilient buildings.

Speaking at a press conference in Elazığ on Jan. 27, three days after the deadly quake jolted the city, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said at least 2,000 new residences will be built as part of the urban transformation project.

“We are starting the production of 2,000 new residences [in southern province of Mardin’s Yemişli district]. Field works and planning have started as of today [Jan. 27],” he said.

According to the most recent figures the minister provided, 53 buildings, in Elazığ’s center and two districts, have been crashed to the ground. Some 22 out of this figure need to be “urgently demolished,” Kurum said. The demolishment of the said buildings started on Jan. 26, he conveyed.

Meanwhile in the nearby province of Malatya, there are 155 damaged buildings, the minister said.

The minister also conveyed that the government will actualize urban transformation projects in both the Mustafa Paşa and Sürsürü neighborhoods of eastern Elazığ. Meetings with citizens concerning the matter has already started, Kurum said.

“We will lay the [constructions’] foundations in February at the latest and deliver the residences by the end of [2020],” he added.

Kurum also said that damage assessment works on 73 buildings near the damaged ones in the Mustafa Kemal neighborhood are ongoing. “We will finalize these works in three days,” he added.

The state housing developer TOKİ currently has 150 residences to offer the citizens whose homes were destructed by the earthquake, the minister said.

“Nearly 250 [residences] will be completed in four months. We will offer these residences to our citizens whose buildings collapsed. If they see fit, we will move them to these ready residences and if they like, they can benefit from the in-situ transformation project,” he said.

Containers sent for temporary residences

Meanwhile, at the same press conference as Kurum, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said a total of 4,000 buildings, half in Elazığ and the remaining in Malatya, were heavily damaged.

In order to find a temporary solution for citizens whose homes have collapsed, Soylu said containers are being sent to quake-hit areas. The containers will provide residences for 1,000 families, he said.

“We will establish a container city in 10-15 days,” he added.

“We are taking new precautions to provide this with all of its infrastructure,” he underlined. He also added that Malatya currently has a container center for nearly 5,000 citizens.

The government will also provide subsidies for rent for the citizens. In the first phase, a total of 41,000 Turkish Liras will be provided, he conveyed.

Interest-rate free credits will also be accessible to citizens for both medium and long-terms.

As for the villages, a total of 11,000 Turkish Liras will be granted as a first step, he said.

Parliament’s agenda dominated with quakes, zoning plans

In the meantime, the Turkish Parliament is set to discuss changes in zoning plans on Jan. 27 after its third break in a month is over.

The amendments in zoning regulations include the restrictions in adding more floors to buildings.

As part of the regulation, the added stories will be amended by the municipalities, in accordance with the buildings’ current zoning plans. The deadline has been set to July 1, 2021.

If the municipalities fail to correct the issue, the Environment and Urbanization Ministry will take charge and will collect 100 percent times more of the cost from the municipalities.