“I can’t bear to speak any more about the number of people who have died,” lamented Zeydan Karalar, Mayor of Adana Metropolitan Municipality, regarding the more than 44,000 people whose lives have been claimed by the devastating earthquake in Turkey. “Our primary goal is to heal the wounds of the earthquake as soon as possible,” he emphasised.
It was to this end, healing the wounds of the ongoing tragedy, that Turkish mayors of Eurocities met with their colleagues in Eurocities Executive Committee this week to discuss how cities across Europe can best cooperate with them in this time of great need and beyond.
In consultation with our Turkish members, Eurocities has resolved to set up a special committee to analyse and recommend the most effective forms of support. These are expected to include material aid for immediate needs, such as clothes, blankets and nappies, but also longer-term support for sustainable and resilient reconstruction of the affected areas.
“The time when all the spotlights and the news headlines will go quiet, this is the time that we have to be ready for,” opened Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence and President of Eurocities, beseeching the mayors of Adana, Gaziantep, Istanbul and Izmir to, “Please tell us how we can support you in any way.”
Cities have not delayed, mobilising disaster relief from the moment the earthquake struck. “With the solidarity that you showed right after the earthquake,” said Ekrem İmamoğlu, Mayor of Istanbul, “you proved that there are very strong ties between cities that go beyond national and cultural boundaries.” He went on to say that, going forward, “I fully believe that Eurocities will be with us with all its institutional capacity.”
Today I revisited the districts affected by the earthquakes to make sure we have identified the deficiencies. We will continue to work in close cooperation and revive #Hatay together. pic.twitter.com/4ZNPKlykuw
— Ekrem İmamoğlu (International) (@imamoglu_int) February 23, 2023
I fully believe that Eurocities will be with us with all
Turkish cities themselves also showed immediate solidarity. Even as it was dealing with local fallout from the earthquake, Adana had already mobilised rescue teams and emergency aid elsewhere. “We coordinated closely, and started to help other provinces affected by the earthquake simultaneously with our own,” said Mayor Karalar.
“In Turkey, we have a strong connection among the progressive municipalities,” explained Tunc Soyer, Mayor of Izmir, whose city suffered its own earthquake in 2020. Along with many other kinds of aid, Izmir has currently mobilised 226 vehicles and 1,500 of its staff directly to affected zones, as well as food trucks that dispense 10,000 meals per day.
The situation in Turkey touched us very deeply
As well as Nardella, other European mayors pledged further support. Mathias De Clercq, Mayor of Ghent, spoke of how his city’s strong Turkish community have worked to organise relief, with the city itself giving direct financial support through charities like the Red Cross. “The situation in Turkey touched us very deeply,” De Clercq said.
I was happy to welcome Ercan Türkoğlu and Işıl Ergeç, representatives of the City of Izmir, in the @Eurocities headquarters to discuss the current situation after the earthquakes and the support our network may offer. pic.twitter.com/6N6M209USH
— André Sobczak (@andresobczak) February 28, 2023
Ricardo Rio, Mayor of Braga, spoke of the emotional connection he felt to the tragedy, having visited Gaizentep, twin city of Braga and one of the worst affected cities, just a few months ago. “When I compare what I saw then to the images I am seeing now,” Mayor Rio said, “I am very moved.” He also mentioned that local funding, aid, and even rescue teams had quickly made the trip from Braga to Turkey, volunteering to help with search and rescue efforts.
We are here to build a bridge of solidarity
Turkish and EU cities were united in the conviction that cooperation should not be limited to short-term disaster relief, rather following the resilient and sustainable rebuilding of the affected cities in the coming years.
Soyer emphasised the importance of engaging with local people, as well as international organisations, “to make everyone an actor in change.” “We are here to build a bridge of solidarity,” he said, “from people to people, form cities to cities.”
İmamoğlu stressed the need “to make our cities more resilient” going forward, including through “public awareness” and “turning into policy whatever science commands.” He pledged to “fight to the end to get results.”
De Clercq acknowledged that “It will be a long time for the development and the redevelopment,” pledging, “We want to do everything, everything, everything we can.”
Cities will always find a way to help each other despite borders, nations and cultures
With its ongoing initiative, Sustainable Rebuilding of Ukrainian Cities, Eurocities has already begun to put in place a structure for city-to-city support for long-term resilience in devastated areas. Now the network will draw on the work done in this domain to create an appropriate model for the case of Turkish cities.
“Cities will always find a way to help each other despite borders, nations and cultures,” Nardella proclaimed.
Going forwards, politicians from Eurocities Executive Committee agreed today in Barcelona to immediately set up a working committee to find the best ways to deliver aid to their Turkish counterparts and to explore the further reaching effects of the earthquake.