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Turkey to build nearly 200,000 homes in quake-hit region

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Turkey's southern province of Hatay, the worst affected by the tremor. ©AFP

Hatay (Turkey) (AFP) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said Turkey would build almost 200,000 new homes in the country's southeast region, devastated by a massive earthquake two weeks ago.

A 7.8-magnitude tremor on February 6 and its aftershocks have killed more than 41,000 people in Turkey and left millions without homes.

Erdogan is keen to show his government will do everything for those impacted as he faces his biggest political test in elections planned for May.

Erdogan said around 118,000 buildings either collapsed, required urgent demolition or were severely damaged by the quake.

He promised reconstruction work would begin in March to build 199,739 homes, including more than 130,000 in the worst-affected provinces of Hatay, Kahramanmaras and Malatya.

"None of these buildings will be more than three or four storeys high," he promised, after the quake caused several high-rise blocks of flats to collapse.

Experts say that while Turkey has the right regulations, construction companies often build homes of poor quality that are unable to withstand strong tremors.

"The buildings will be constructed...on sturdy ground and using the right methods," Erdogan vowed. 

He said the new homes would be built away from fault lines, "closer to the mountains", which would "protect against problems that are caused by soft soil".

"We will start to move our citizens living in tents and container cities to their sturdy, safe and comfortable homes within a year," Erdogan added.

The state was providing shelter to around 1,6 million people in the region, according to Erdogan, speaking after a visit to affected areas in Hatay province.

Erdogan said rescuers had saved 114,834 people from the rubble.Search and rescue efforts have ended in nine provinces, but as of Sunday continued in Hatay and Kahramanmaras.

"We will build a new Antakya, Iskenderun, Arsuz," the president said, referring to towns and cities in Hatay levelled by the quake.

The city of Antakya, once home to a myriad of civilisations, lies in ruins after the quake, with centuries-old mosques and churches destroyed.

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