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Türkiye’s historical monuments largely remain unaffected in quake zone

Many invaluable artefacts in Türkiye, such as those in the renowned Zeugma Mosaic Museum, have been mainly left unscathed in two recent earthquakes that hit the country’s south.

Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy declared on Sunday that the ministry’s General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums has introduced an emergency disaster prevention plan.

Teams responded immediately to work on damaged parts of museums and ruins across 11 provinces hit hard by the two back-to-back quakes on February 6, and conducted large-scale damage assessment work of the cultural treasures.

In Gaziantep, one of those 11 provinces, the historical Roman-era columns still stand in the ruins of Zeugma.

Its famed ancient mosaics have preserved their unique texture despite the earthquakes, while the museum’s favourite exhibits, the 1.6-metre-tall statue of the Roman god Mars and the Gypsy Girl mosaic, were unscathed.

Overall, the total number of works assessed in the earthquake region was reported to be 433, with 121 seriously damaged, 66 moderately damaged, and 57 mildly.

‘City of Civilisations’ among hardest-hit

In the nearby Hatay province, the restoration of historical and cultural sites that were damaged by the massive tremors is set to begin next month, according to the minister.

Despite being damaged, the historical Governor’s Office building of Hatay province, which was built 95 years ago and served as a presidential mansion before the province joined Türkiye in 1939, did not collapse.

The earthquakes spared the Titus Tunnel and neighbouring Besikli Cave, built about 2 millennia ago by slaves to avoid flooding in the Samandag area of Hatay.

Home to Antakya, the renowned “City of Civilisations” and home to many cultural treasures, Hatay is one of the provinces hit hardest by the earthquakes.

Many of its mosques, churches, and synagogues, which were among the province’s most notable works, were demolished in the quakes.

Historical Virgin Mary Church in Hatay damaged in earthquake

Damage in the epicentre

Kahramanmaras, the epicentre of both earthquakes, suffered widespread destruction due to the strong tremors. Many buildings collapsed in the centuries-old city which is home to many historical sites.

As debris is removed, however, residents have regained road access to the Grand Bazaar, dating back half a millennium, which itself was nearly unscathed by the earthquakes.

In fact, some businesses have started reopening their doors to help people feel like “life will return to normal.”

Not so fortunate, half of the minaret of the 15th-century Maras Grand Mosque, which marks the centre of the city, was lost in the disaster, with the falling debris causing some damage near the entrance of the historical mosque.

Daily prayer services have since been put on hold due to the damage, while weekly Friday prayers have been held outside.

Here is how you can help the earthquake victims.

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