26-02-2020 17:49:45

“Over 250 houses, 300 barns destroyed; nearly 700 buildings damaged”

Environment and urbanization minister Murat Kurum spoke at Anadolu Agency’s Editor’s Desk.

Turkey has started rehabilitation efforts for the victims of Sunday’s deadly earthquakes in its eastern Van province, the country’s environment and urbanization minister said.

At least nine people died and dozens were injured when two magnitude 5.9 earthquakes struck near the border region with Iran, Turkish authorities said. Tremors were felt in eastern Turkey.

“A total of 245 houses and 297 barns were destroyed and 694 buildings were damaged in Van,” Murat Kurum told Anadolu Agency’s Editor’s Desk on Monday.

He said the border villages were the worst hit as the locals live in unsteady mud houses.

“While we carry out damage assessment in the region, our priority is to rebuild permanent residences for our citizens who lost their houses,” he said.

Stressing 66% of Turkey’s land and 71% of its population is located on quake zones, he said there was a need to design cities and infrastructure keeping this in mind.

He recalled that more than half of the quakes which hit the country were above magnitude 6.

In 1999, Turkey's Marmara region was jolted by two massive quakes that claimed nearly 100,000 lives.

He said the government has spent 170 billion Turkish liras ($27.6 billion) on an urban transformation project.

A total of 230 billion Turkish liras ($37.3 billion) have been earmarked for the project that has so far built 1,350,000 houses. A million more houses will be built.

 Canal Istanbul project

Speaking about Turkey’s Canal Istanbul megaproject, Kurum said most people in Turkey support the project.

"The project is very important for Istanbul's future, its fight against earthquakes and its urbanization," he said.

He said the project's environmental impact assessment report is well thought-out and takes into consideration all possible risk factors.

"During construction, everything that is in the report will be done to conserve the environment, nature and natural resources," he said.

The construction of Canal Istanbul, with a daily vessel passage capacity of 185, is expected to start in 2020 and completed in 2025-2026.

The planned 45-kilometer (nearly 28-mile) canal will be built west of the city center on the European side of the Istanbul province.

The mega-project, which aims to prevent risks posed by vessels carrying dangerous shipments through the Bosphorus Strait, was approved by the country's Environment and Urbanization Ministry.