Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday used harsh language against people who are criticizing his government for failing to distribute a sufficient number of tents to the victims of several powerful earthquakes that hit the country’s south earlier this month.
The president visited the southern province of Osmaniye on Tuesday with his far-right election partner, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli. Osmaniye, which is Bahçeli’s hometown, is one of 11 provinces hit by magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes on Feb. 6 that claimed the lives of more than 45,000 people in Turkey and parts of Syria.
Erdoğan, who spoke at a news conference with Bahçeli at the Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) coordination center in Osmaniye, slammed people demanding tents for earthquake victims.
“Someone comes up and asks, ‘Where are the Kızılay [Turkish Red Crescent] tents? You are dishonest, immoral and mean. Kızılay is distributing meals to 2.5 million people every day. How can there be such a lack of compassion?” asked an angry Erdoğan.
Basın Açıklaması | Osmaniyehttps://t.co/ivyVYvlu81
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) February 21, 2023
The shortage of safe shelters for earthquake victims came to public attention once again on Monday evening following two other earthquakes in the southern province of Hatay, which was already hit by the Feb. 6 earthquakes.
Monday’s earthquakes, registering magnitude 6.4 and 5.8, led to further devastation in the province and claimed six more lives, while hundreds of people were injured.
Media reports and a district mayor in Hatay said despite warnings from experts to stay away from damaged buildings, some Hatay residents had to remain in their ruined homes because there were not enough tents for them.
Although more than two weeks have passed since the Feb. 6 earthquakes, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) failure to provide shelter to all earthquake victims despite the bitter cold has brought it harsh criticism from opposition politicians and celebrity figures given the fact that there is an ongoing massive relief effort in Turkey and overseas.
Erdoğan’s government is coming under growing pressure on social media for what his critics view as a slow response to Turkey’s biggest earthquake in nearly a century.
The government is mainly accused of failing to mobilize enough people for relief efforts and a lack of coordination among the teams, which resulted in civilians in some regions trying to pull their loved ones from under the rubble themselves and finding them frozen to death although they sustained no critical injuries in the collapse.
Erdoğan’s handling of the biggest natural disaster in his two-decade rule could prove crucial ahead of tightly contested parliamentary and presidential elections, which were to be held on May 14 but could be postponed to June due to the earthquakes.