Crowds have gathered across Turkey to mark the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the country, with many people expressing anger over the authorities’ response to the disaster.
In Antakya, capital of Hatay, the worst affected of the 11 southern provinces hit by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on February 6, 2023, crowds jostled with police, calling on city mayor Lutfu Savas to resign and booing Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.
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The tremor and its aftershocks left towns and cities in ruins and killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and 5,900 in Syria. Locals say the delayed response of the authorities meant that many were left to die, trapped for days under the rubble, in the freezing cold.
People chanted “Can anyone hear me?” – echoing the voices of those who lost their lives while waiting for help.
“We won’t forget, we won’t forgive,” the crowd declared.
After a moment of silence at 4:17am to mark the time that the quake struck, carnations were thrown into the river.
‘The disaster of the century’
The government has organised a series of events across the country to commemorate the anniversary.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a post on X that the pain is still fresh.
“The unity of the century was displayed in the face of the disaster of the century,” he said.
Bir yıl önce yaşadığımız Kahramanmaraş merkezli depremlerde kaybettiğimiz canların acısı ilk günkü tazeliğiyle yüreklerimizi yakmayı sürdürüyor.
Yitirdiğimiz 53 bin 537 canımızın her birine Allah’tan rahmet, yakınlarına ve milletimize başsağlığı diliyorum.… pic.twitter.com/19AufD6qMt
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) February 6, 2024
Touring the earthquake zone, he planned to visit Kahramanmaras, marking the epicentre, to inspect the work being done to rebuild the city and rehouse thousands who remain in tents and prefabricated containers.
He also will take part in handing over completed homes to survivors who are among the millions who were left homeless by the disaster.
Schools were closed for the day in many of the earthquake-affected provinces.
However, authorities were also braced for anger. In Malatya province, the governor banned any marches or other public displays outside officially sanctioned events for three days.