Ankara, Feb 18 (IANS) Historical sites that were devastated by the recent earthquakes in southern Turkey would be restored, a Minister has confirmed.
“Antakya is a mosaic, it is where religions come together,” Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told reporters outside the Antakya Archaeological Museum, noting “the Ministry will be taking on the responsibility of all registered buildings in the area… We will work together to rebuild them”, reports Xinhua news agency
Ersoy added that the damage to historical sites in Antakya had already been identified and marked so as not to be cleared during the clean-up of the rubble.
“We will begin restoration projects as of March,” he said.
Environment and Urban Planning Minister Murat Kurum said on Friday that “84,726 buildings collapsed, were on the verge of collapse, or have suffered severe structural damage”.
The February 6 earthquakes centered in Kahramanmaras province devastated 10 nearby cities.
The devastated areas comprise some of the oldest continuous settlements of Anatolia, and many historical buildings were lost in the disaster.
The district of Antakya, in the southern province of Hatay, suffered one of the worst hits.
Founded in the 4th century B.C., Antakya has been home to countless civilizations, from Alexander the Great to the Ottoman Empire, and was also one of the earliest centres of Christianity.
It also boasts one of the oldest churches in the world, St. Pierre, a cave church from the year 38 A.D., which fortunately survived the earthquake last week.
However, the Habib-i Najjar Mosque in Antakya was completely destroyed.
Becoming a mosque in 638 A.D. when Muslim Arabs took the city, it is considered the first mosque within the borders of modern Turkey.
Another prominent mosque levelled in the earthquake was the Ulu Mosque, built in the 16th century.
The Saints Peter and Paul Eastern Orthodox Church in central Antakya were also destroyed.
First built as a wooden church in the 1830s, the original structure collapsed in another earthquake in 1872.
A stone church built in Byzantine architecture later replaced it in the early 1900s.