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Earthquakes in Turkey caused around $100 billion in damage: minister

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Two devastating earthquakes that hit Turkey on Feb. 6 killing more than 50,000 people and leaving millions homeless in more than a dozen cities caused damage in the amount of $100 billion, according to the country’s environment minister.

Minister of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Mehmet Özhaseki, who described the magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes that affected 11 provinces in the country’s south and southeast as “the biggest calamity” hitting any civilization in Anatolia, said despite the enormous financial strain the earthquakes put on the Turkish economy, the government is determined to keep its promises to earthquake survivors in the region.

The minister’s remarks came during a celebration with members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the occasion of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha in the central province of Kayseri on Wednesday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a bold pledge while campaigning for the presidential election in May to rebuild the entire disaster zone — originally home to more than 13 million people — by the start of next year. He was re-elected president in a runoff election on May 28 and surprisingly did not experience a loss of votes in the quake region despite the fact that he and his government were harshly criticized due to ineffective search and rescue operations and for allowing construction in the region that failed to meet building regulations.

Özhaseki said a total of 850,000 buildings, demolished or heavily damaged by the earthquakes, need to be reconstructed.

He said 300,000 of those buildings will go up within a year.

At the end of March, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) issued an appeal for $550 million for 31 projects aimed at restoring livelihoods, public services and cultural heritage in quake-hit southern Turkey.

The UNDP’s announcement came following an international donors conference in Brussels in the same month to raise funds and coordinate the relief response in areas affected in both Turkey and Syria.

The EU promised to provide €1 billion to help Turkey rebuild after the earthquakes.

According to relief organizations the impact of the earthquakes will be felt for months and years to come.

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