Turkey has begun work to rebuild homes for the 1.5 million left homeless by quakes that killed more than 50,000 people in February, a government official said on Friday. As the combined death count in Turkey and Syria surpassed 50,000, President Tayyip Erdogan pledged to build new homes within a year.
A Turkish official told Reuters that tenders and contracts had been made for several projects. “The process is moving very fast.” But, he added: “There will be no compromise on safety.”
Mr. Erdogan has faced criticism for not enforcing construction quality control and some properties that were meant to withstand tremors crumbled in the latest earthquakes.
On Saturday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said he would discuss harsher punishments and deterrents for violations of building rules. He also said 171 people were arrested on Thursday as part of an investigation into collapsed buildings.
He urged the government to make legal changes to punish those who break the law on construction permits and introduce new penalties for zoning violations, which dictate where and how buildings can be built.
In Gaziantep province, excavations are taking place to build an initial 855 homes for those who lost their property in the quakes.
A government official told Reuters that the initial plan was to build 200,000 apartments and 70,000 village houses at the cost of at least $15 billion. A US bank, JPMorgan, had estimated rebuilding houses and infrastructure could cost $25 billion.
The earthquakes have displaced many living in tents and other temporary accommodations, and there are concerns they need more food or shelter. The UN Development Program has estimated that 500,000 new homes are needed.