Shopkeepers in quake-stricken Kahramanmaraş: ‘Nothing will be the same as before’

Kahramanmaraş shopkeepers who have managed to reopen their stores after last week’s major earthquakes, say that “nothing will be the same as before” with half of the surviving residents eaving the province and amid concerns that economic woes will further deepen.

People walk near a damaged building in the aftermath of the deadly earthquakes in Kahramanmaraş.

Serkan Alan – Ceren Bayar / Gazete Duvar

Turkish shopkeepers in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş are of the opinion that the region will have a difficult time in recovery after last week’s major earthquakes. In interviews with Gazete Duvar, they said that about half of the province’s residents have left the city and “nothing will be the same as before.”  

Many shopkeepers were already struggling prior to the earthquakes due to the economic crisis and now the situation has even gotten worse. Those who have managed to reopen their shops have said that their customers are mostly volunteers helping with the rescue efforts and security personnel, instead of the locals.

“The economy was already weak (before the earthquakes). And now the earthquakes hit. What should I say; I can’t also say anything to the state. I don’t know how it will be from today onwards. It will not be like before, but hopefully, we can stay alive,” said Adem Tatılmış, a shopkeeper whose store has not been damaged in the city center.

“Residents’ 50 percent have gone to other cities. And most of those who stayed are living in tents. Life and work has stopped. Nothing will be the same as before,” he said.

Shopkeepers Mukaddes Kayan and Yemliha Kayan, selling staple food products, have said that their house was damaged by the earthquakes. They said no local has been coming to their store since last week and their only customers are currently those coming to the city for rescue efforts. “I don’t know if I will be able to buy new products once I am out of the current (product) stock. I am currently trying to finish off what I have left from before. When they are also sold, if I can’t acquire new ones, I will not be able to do anything anyway,” Mukaddes Kayan said.

Another shopkeeper named Yusuf Çam said, “No one knows how tomorrow will turn out.” “The city has been evacuated anyway. Many people whom I phoned have gone to Ankara, Erdemli, Mersin,” he said.

A shopkeeper named Rafet Sürücü said that they felt the urge to reopen their shops to meet people’s needs. “As our people need at most personal hygiene products like toothbrushes and toothpaste, we have to keep open. Our people are thanking us for serving them,” he said.

Turkey’s southern region was hit by two powerful earthquakes on Feb. 6, one at a magnitude of 7.7 and the other 7.6. The government has faced severe criticism over its response to the victims and rescue efforts.

(English version by Didem Atakan)