Turkey: Erdogan asks for "patience" in the face of complaints about the delay in aid and attributes the earthquake "to the plans of destiny" | International

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"Patience" requested the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to the population affected by the earthquake: "Just as our citizens have shown patience in the face of similar tragedies, they will also show it in the face of this tragedy." Accompanied by a large entourage of bodyguards and collaborators, the Islamist president visited on Wednesday some of the places most damaged by the earthquake on Monday, after two days in which he had reduced his public appearances and had allowed his ministers and the vice president to show their faces. before the media. He also branded as "provocateurs" those who have begun to criticize the management of the disaster; and his government has restricted the movement of journalists in certain areas and access to the Twitter social network, which is helping many of those affected to raise their voices and demand help.

Erdogan likes to boast that the Turkish state has been strengthened during his tenure and Turkey has become a "powerful" country, sending aid to other countries when they need it. Several articles have recalled these days that one of the reasons for the electoral victory of the president and his party two decades ago was precisely the weakness shown by the State and the Government of the time when it came to caring for its citizens in the face of a tragedy. similar —the 1999 earthquake—, and how one of the first actions of the new Islamist government was to reorganize disaster management agencies to make them more effective.

Erdogan faces the polls next May and does not want to show those signs of weakness that buried his predecessors. For this reason, when a woman from the town of Pazarcik, the epicenter of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake, approached him to explain her troubles, Erdogan, captured by CNN-Türk cameras, replied: "These are things that they have always passed They are things that are part of destiny's plans."

"Problems and Difficulties"

However, the Turkish president acknowledged "problems" and "difficulties" when it comes to accessing certain areas, mainly due to the damage suffered by the roads due to the earthquake and the snow and rain storm that, at the same time, has whipped Turkey. But he also assured that the deployment of up to 100,000 troops from the government's emergency management agency (AFAD) and the army is normalizing and will continue to improve in the coming days as the storm subsides and the victims are evacuated, for the that hotels on the Mediterranean coast have been set up. "We have mobilized all the resources of the State, we work with all the means at our disposal," he assured.

But the truth is that, until Wednesday, rescue specialists had not made an appearance in several places devastated by the earthquake, such as many areas of Hatay province and the town of Elbistan, in Kahramanmaras. “To Antioch [capital provincial de Hatay] Yes, they have arrived, but we have not seen any rescue team here yet," lamented the mayor of the town of Defne, Ibrahim Güzel, on Wednesday morning. “The situation is very tough. There are five-story buildings that are now a pile of ruins, there are people under the rubble... With the cold and the passing of days, we don't know how many are alive”, added the mayor.

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Another Turkish citizen with relatives in the province of Hatay explained by telephone that an acquaintance of hers was rescued 48 hours after the earthquake, but "had died of hypothermia" due to the low temperatures that were recorded during the night. "In some places, rescue teams have arrived today [miércoles]but they have left again because they do not hear any sound that indicates that there are survivors, ”he added.

Poor coordination in the rescue

Several channels linked to the opposition have denounced that numerous cranes and other heavy machinery —essential to speed up the rescue work— are stopped and that the drivers have claimed that they cannot move without the permission of the agency that manages emergencies. “AFAD has put up many bureaucratic obstacles. He has asked to coordinate all the aid and that nothing be done outside of his control, but his coordination work is being really bad, ”Gökçe Gökçen, vice president of the center-left CHP, denounced to EL PAÍS. This formation, the main opposition party, has established its own center that responds to calls for help through troops sent by municipalities from their party and coordinates them with AFAD.

Precisely, the metropolitan mayor of Hatay, Lütfü Savas, of the CHP (although until 2014 he governed in the ranks of the AKP, Erdogan's party) complained two weeks ago, In a television program, that the province "was not prepared" for an earthquake and that all the requests it had made to the central government to coordinate and improve preparation had remained "unanswered." Savas himself explained this Wednesday that of the 2,000 buildings believed to have been destroyed by the earthquake, rescue teams have only reached 3%.

The leader of the CHP and possible presidential candidate for the elections this spring, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, lashed out hard at Erdogan, accusing him of being "responsible" for the large number of victims for "taking 20 years without preparing the country for an earthquake." On the other hand, another of the opposition leaders, Meral Aksener, president of the right-wing IYI ​​party, considered that now is not the time for criticism: “Today is the day to listen to the State and for us to shut up. God help us". A request similar to that made by Erdogan: "Now is the time for unity and solidarity."

The leftist coalition led by the pro-Kurdish HDP party has issued a statement expressing its fear that the state of emergency declared on Tuesday by Erdogan in the 10 provinces affected by the earthquake will serve to curtail freedoms and the right to information. It is a fear shared by the Union of Journalists, which denounced the fact that reporters are being prevented from accessing some areas affected by the earthquake and that judicial investigations are being opened against presenters and users of social networks.

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