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Canada sending another $30M in aid to Turkey, Syria, as rebuild begins

Two major earthquakes damaged tens of thousands of buildings, left more than 47,000 people dead
A destroyed building leans on a neighbouring house following the earthquake in Samandag, southern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. Survivors of the earthquake that jolted Turkey and Syria 15 days ago, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving hundreds of thousands of others homeless, dealt with more trauma and loss Tuesday after another deadly quake and aftershocks rocked the region. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The federal government is sending another $20 million in aid for people affected by the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and matching millions more in private donations.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada will match $10 million in donations to members of the Humanitarian Coalition, on top of the $10 million in matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross.

The announcement comes after the United Nations asked for more help and a group of Canadian MPs urged the government to expand the donation-matching to more organizations.

The Humanitarian Coalition, which includes Oxfam, Plan International and World Vision as members, is providing emergency food, water, sanitation and health services.

Two major earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks shook the region on Feb. 6, damaging tens of thousands of buildings and leaving more than 47,000 people dead.

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says more than a million people are staying in temporary accommodations, including gyms, stadiums, hotels and dormitories, with limited access to essential services.

“The children and families who survived the earthquake now face homelessness, lack of food and water, and temperatures that regularly drop below freezing at night,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia.

Turkish authorities on Friday said preliminary work has started to build housing for people left homeless by the massive earthquake.

Murat Kurum, the minister for the environment, urbanization and climate change, said on Twitter that excavations were taking place in the towns of Nurdagi and Islahiye in Gaziantep province, where the government plans to build an initial 855 homes.

The work comes less than three weeks after the magnitude 7.8 quake struck. Turkish authorities say some 173,000 buildings, containing around 534,000 apartments or other units, either collapsed or were severely damaged in the quake.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces tough elections in either May or June, has promised to reconstruct homes within the year, although critics have warned that moving too fast could just lead to the erection of more substandard homes.

Opposition parties have also held Erdogan’s government — in power for the past two decades — responsible for the extent of the disaster, accusing it of failing to enforce building regulations.

Experts say many of the toppled structures were built with inferior materials and methods, and often did not comply with government standards.

Earlier Friday, Erdogan issued a decree which among other things enables individuals, companies or organizations to build homes or offices and donate them to Kurum’s ministry, which would then give them to people who lost homes or businesses.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said late Thursday that 583 contractors or other people suspected of responsibility over buildings that have collapsed were being investigated and 171 have been arrested.

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