Türkiye endeavors to heal quake-victims' wounds: Top official

Mon, 27 Feb 2023 8:55 GMT
Meeting needs of citizens and rebuilding cities affected by the earthquake are top priority, says Communications Director Fahrettin Altun.
Türkiye endeavors to heal quake-victims' wounds: Top official

Türkiye is doing its best to heal the wounds of the victims of Feb. 6 powerful earthquakes, the country's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said.

"Our state pulls out all the stops to heal the wounds of quake-victims," Altun told Greek daily Kathimerini in an interview.

He added that the citizens provide financial and in-kind support to institutions that carry out aid activities, especially Türkiye's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD).

"Indeed, we have clearly demonstrated the unity and integrity of Türkiye with its state and nation during this difficult period. At the moment, our government has no priority other than meeting the needs of our citizens and rebuilding our cities affected by the earthquake," he said.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 quakes were centered in Kahramanmaras and struck 10 other provinces – Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Elazig, Hatay, Gaziantep, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa.

More than 13 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes, while the death toll is now over 44,215.

"Both of these earthquakes were bigger than the one we experienced in the Marmara region in 1999. Moreover, 11 provinces were affected by this situation separately. Our nation called these earthquakes the 'disaster of the century'," Altun said.

Asked on possible postponement of the upcoming elections in Türkiye -- scheduled for May 14 -- Altun said: “We do not have such an agenda. Our number one priority right now is to heal the wounds as soon as possible. Of course we are in great pain. But we will overcome these difficult days with the unity of state and nation."

Over difficulty in access to Twitter, Altun underlined that the fight against disinformation has become a priority issue not only in Türkiye but also all over the world in recent years.

Altun said that after the earthquake, fake news, which misled the rescue teams, was shared on social media.

"We are investigating whether this was intentional or whether it was done by internal and external elements who wanted to sabotage the search and rescue efforts. Therefore, an administrative decision was taken.

"Twitter also said that it understood our concerns and took concrete steps to address our concerns. A few hours later, the restrictions were lifted," he added.

Upon a question on whether it is a "realistic promise" to start reconstruction of buildings in earthquake areas in March, Altun said: "It is certainly a realistic goal because the Republic of Türkiye is a strong state. It has serious capacity."

He stressed that Türkiye will heal the wounds without delay just as it did in previous disasters, adding: "We will provide our citizens with safe and high quality accommodation areas."

Ties with Greece

Altun said Türkiye immediately called for international aid after the first major earthquake and that search and rescue teams from dozens of countries, including Greece, came to the quake-hit region.

"Of course, we would like to thank Greece and all the supporting countries. Regarding our relations with Greece, I can say this: We always want to have good relations with all our neighbors. It is natural to have disagreements between states from time to time.

"We must resolve these disputes on the basis of meaningful and sincere dialogue and fairness, in accordance with international law. The Turkish nation has never left the friendly hand extended to them hanging," he said.

On Feb. 12, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias visited quake-hit Hatay province to meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

"Greece was one of the first countries to offer aid to Türkiye. In these difficult times, a neighbor extending a helping hand is a true neighbor," Cavusoglu said on Twitter.

Also, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was among the first leaders who called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to convey condolences and support for the Turkish state and nation.


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