Due to the delayed closure of the İstanbul Stock Exchange (BIST) in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake on Feb. 6, small investors in the 10 affected provinces lost 5.4 billion lira ($286.5 million), the Habertürk news website reported on Wednesday, citing official data.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked parts of southern Turkey and northern Syria in the early hours of Feb. 6, claiming nearly 40,000 lives so far. It is the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when an earthquake of the same magnitude killed 30,000 people, according to the United States Geological Survey.
BIST announced only on Wednesday, two days after the earthquake, that it would close for five days in response to the disaster, which was the first such shutdown since 1999.
On Monday Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called for the resignation of Capital Markets Board (SPK) president İbrahim Ömer Gönül over the delayed closure of BIST.
Kılıçdaroğlu and business experts say the delayed closure robbed approximately 380,000 investors of their savings. Gönül refused to meet with the opposition politician.
According to Habertürk’s report, citing figures from the state body monitoring BIST, the Central Registry Agency (MKK), the portfolio of investors from the earthquake-stricken region in the stock exchange is currently valued at 56.2 billion lira, down from 61.5 billion lira before the quake.
Some politicians, including Kılıçdaroğlu, are now calling for all trades conducted in the two days the exchange stayed open after the earthquake to be canceled to protect the rights of the investors affected by the quake.
The earthquake struck at a time when Turkey was already facing economic crises on several fronts.
The annual consumer price inflation in Turkey peaked at 85.5 percent in October before decreasing, but prices in January 2023 were still 57.7 percent higher than the same month of the previous year, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.