Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the hand-over ceremony of some 16,000 houses to their owners on the first anniversary of a destructive earthquake that hit the province of Van, killing nearly 600 people and destroying many of the buildings in the area Today`s Zaman reported.
Hundreds were rescued from under the rubble of collapsed buildings after the magnitude 7.2 earthquake on Oct. 23, 2011, which killed 535 people. It was followed by a particularly strong aftershock with a magnitude of 4.7 on Nov. 9, which killed nearly 30 others.
Erdogan and 10 ministers arrived in the province early on Tuesday to commemorate the quake victims and attend the ceremony to give 15,341 houses built by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) to their owners.
The disaster left the province devastated. About half the province's population migrated to nearby provinces while hundreds of thousands who remained were placed in temporary, prefabricated housing.
People from all across the country hosted quake victims in their homes for months, while civil society groups continually sent donations of supplies, including clothing and food items.
Banks and the government gave a total of TL 270 million in loans to local businesses to revive the region's shattered economy. Schools damaged during the earthquake were rebuilt, with the province receiving 2,600 new classrooms.
As the urban renewal continued, green areas in the province were also cared for. According to official statistics, 16,650 trees were planted during the post-earthquake efforts.