Turkey issued rebuilding regulations on Friday for a region devastated by earthquakes this month to enable companies or charities to help in the urgent task of building new homes for the millions who need rehousing after the devastating tremors.
More than 160,000 buildings, containing 520,000 apartments, collapsed or were severely damaged in Turkey in the earthquakes.
The Turkish death toll from the tremors now stands at more than 43,500 people, while the toll in neighboring Syria, a nation already shattered by war, is close to 6,000.
Safety before speed
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to rebuild homes within a year, although experts have said the authorities should put safety before speed. Some buildings that were meant to withstand tremors crumbled in the latest earthquakes.
Many survivors have left the region of southern Turkey that was hit or have been settled in tents, container homes and other government-sponsored accommodations.
Under the new regulations, individuals, institutions and organizations will be able to build residences and workplaces that they can donate to the urbanization ministry and those properties will then be handed to those in need, according to a presidential decree published in the Official Gazette.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told CNNTurk that 171 people had been arrested and 77 more faced detention as part of an investigation into collapsed buildings in the earthquake area, related to violations of building codes.
"Everyone involved will be held accountable in front of courts. Everyone will be punished according to their responsibility," Bozdag said.
He said legal changes could be needed for crimes regarding construction permits and said the authorities should discuss tougher punishments and deterrents for violating zoning rules, which dictate where and how buildings can be more safely built.
In Antakya, Saeed Sleiman Ertoglu, 56, loaded up what remained of his stock from his waterpipe shop that was not damaged in the two massive earthquakes on Feb. 6 followed by another strong quake two weeks later.
"The glassware was very beautiful, more than usual, but then we had this (earthquake), and it all got ruined," he said, after his home and shop survived the first tremors but not the later one. He estimated that 5% of his merchandise survived.
"What can we do? This is an act of God, and God’s will always bears gifts," he said.