President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said Turkey would build almost 200,000 new homes in the country’s southeast, devastated by a massive earthquake two weeks ago, Agence France-Presse reported.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 6 and its aftershocks have killed more than 41,000 people in Turkey and left millions without homes.
Erdoğan is keen to show his government will do everything for those impacted as he faces his biggest political test in elections planned for May.
Erdoğan said around 118,000 buildings either collapsed, required urgent demolition or were severely damaged by the quake.
He promised reconstruction work would begin in March to build 199,739 homes, including more than 130,000 in the worst-affected provinces of Hatay, Kahramanmaraş and Malatya.
“None of these buildings will be more than three or four storeys high,” he promised, after the quake caused several high-rise blocks of flats to collapse.
Experts say that while Turkey has the right regulations, construction companies often build homes of poor quality that are unable to withstand strong tremors.
“The buildings will be constructed … on solid ground and using proper construction methods,” Erdoğan vowed.
He said the new homes would be built away from fault lines, “closer to the mountains,” which would “protect against problems that are caused by unstable soil.”
“We will start to move our citizens living in tents and container cities to their sturdy, safe and comfortable homes within a year,” Erdoğan added.
The state was providing shelter to around 1.6 million people in the region, according to Erdoğan, speaking after a visit to affected areas in Hatay province.
Erdoğan said rescuers had saved 114,834 people from the rubble. Search and rescue efforts have ended in nine provinces, but as of Sunday continued in Hatay and Kahramanmaraş.
“We will build a new Antakya, İskenderun, Arsuz,” the president said, referring to towns and cities in Hatay leveled by the quake.
The city of Antakya, once home to myriad civilizations, lies in ruins after the quake, with centuries-old mosques and churches destroyed.