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Reconstruction is slow in Turkey, which is still reeling from earthquakes in February


The reconstruction in Turkey has not gone exactly as promised. Five months ago, 50,000 people were killed by an earthquake. The president did say there would be rapid reconstruction of hundreds of thousands of homes. But instead, in the city of Adiyaman, people are salvaging and reselling old parts of buildings. Here's NPR's Peter Kenyon.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Adiyaman was among the hardest-hit cities on February 6. Several months later, the effects of the quake are starkly evident, both in the crumpled buildings around the city and in the way lives continue to be disrupted and too often dependent on the kindness of others.


KENYON: Sitting under a tree on a hot summer morning, a group of women and children are waiting outside a bakery. Thirty-four-year-old Hatice agrees to speak with a reporter if her surname isn't used. Many of the people approached for this story worried about official retribution if they spoke candidly about the earthquake and the government's response. Hatice is in a temporary apartment after losing her home in the quake, and she's applied to move into a shipping container as her next dwelling. Hatice says she comes here most mornings because the bakery gives away loaves of bread to needy families.

HATICE: (Through interpreter) We are waiting for our turn. Then we get in the queue. I left my kids at home. It's too hot, so I left them at home.


KENYON: Working inside the makeshift bakery, squeezed into a temporary building, Burhan says, ever since the earthquake, customers who can afford it leave a donation when they buy their bread. Burhan uses that extra money to make the loaves that he gives away to quake victims each day.

BURHAN: (Through interpreter) Our own bakery was demolished in the earthquake, so we're using this prefabricated structure for now. All the houses are gone, either demolished or uninhabitable. So we stay about an hour away. We rent there because there are no places to rent in this area.

KENYON: With officials saying more than a million people in Turkey were displaced by the quake, Burhan says everyone in downtown Adiyaman is waiting for the government to give the go-ahead for new construction.

BURHAN: (Through interpreter) We're hearing that might begin this month, but it's not clear yet. We can't start before there's an official announcement. Once we see that, we'll start.

KENYON: All at once, the group waiting outside the bakery snaps into a somewhat organized line. They hold out their sacks and receive three loaves each. A few children try to come back for more but get shooed away. Hatice says she's heard the government is making plans to provide assistance to people who want to rebuild their own homes, but she's not quite sure how it will work.

HATICE: (Through interpreter) They say, if you want, you can make your building in your lot. The buildings get demolished, so anyone who wants to rebuild, they can do it. That's what I have heard.

KENYON: Officials have been talking about an assistance package for private rebuilding, but it's not ready yet. Some say it will include a half-million Turkish lira, nearly $20,000, for rebuilding a house and half that amount for rebuilding a workplace. But until it's official, nothing is certain.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stung by criticism immediately after the disaster, is now pointing to progress. He told a Berlin audience recently that all the debris from the quake had been cleared away and reconstruction was underway. But here in Adiyaman, it's clear that the rubble has definitely not all been removed.


KENYON: That's the sound of heavy equipment moving into place, preparing to demolish a badly damaged building that's several stories tall. A nearby security guard says the neighbors have been complaining for some time about the cement dust swirling around the neighborhood.

Not far away, there's another staple of life in Adiyaman these days, empty lots transformed into earthquake junkyards. Doors, window frames, bed springs and other household items are neatly stacked, and families are browsing for things they can use.


KENYON: I meet a woman named Emine. She's looking for a door. She, too, fled the earthquake zone in February. Now, she says her family is trying to do what they can to rebuild.

EMINE: (Through interpreter) My house is lightly damaged, but since it's on the ground floor, the inner walls were badly damaged. I just came back after five months. We couldn't stay here. There was no place to stay. Now we came back, and we're doing the construction with our kids. We stay on the roof.

KENYON: She says she's glad to be back, though like many people here, she really can't say when life will start to feel normal again. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Adiyaman, Turkey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.