8 Nisan 2011 Cuma

Turkey needs master plan against quake threat, association head says

It has been 11 years since the earthquake in the northwestern province of Kocaeli caused nearly 17,000 deaths but the danger of another catastrophic loss of life remains as little concrete action has been taken since. ‘We keep talking and so far there is no master plan,’ says Orhan Turan, chairman of the Association of Turkish Building Material Producers, or İMSAD
Despite a history of catastrophic earthquakes, Turkey has done little to prepare for survival after the next “Big One,” according to the head of a building-materials producers’ association.
“We keep talking but so far there is no master plan,” said Orhan Turan, chairman of the Association of Turkish Building-Material Producers, or İMSAD.

In the most recent seismic disaster, a temblor in the northwestern province of Kocaeli in 1999 killed nearly 17,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage, according to official figures. “Unfortunately we forgot the sad things that took place so quickly [in the 1999 quake],” he said.

“Most of the residencies built after 1999 are strong enough to resist earthquakes due to better [government] enforcement and surveillance, but the rest of them are weak, so we need a master plan and a defined budget to restructure the old buildings,” Turan told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“There are more 18 million houses in Turkey and nearly 14 millions of them need to be restructured with additional support,” said Turan.

Turkey is one of the world leaders in the construction sector and has proved capable of participating in the world’s biggest contracts, he said.

“Even though we have the needed materials, and produce them and build the greatest buildings in the world, we have not been able to find a solution to the houses built before 1999,” he said.
“They are weak and could easily fall apart with even small earthquakes. They need to be demolished or supported with additional construction,” Turan said.

“Turkey is the second most active country after China in the contractor sector and we have 31 Turkish companies among in world’s top 100 contracting firms,” he said.

Criticizing the “irresponsibility” of the authorities and the people living in non-secure buildings, he said: “If this high risk were in Europe or in the United States, the people’s number-one issue would have been the earthquake threat and a master plan against it. Unfortunately, however, [this is not the case] in Turkey even though more 95 percent of the population resides in a potential earthquake area.”

‘Earthquake might restructure Istanbul’

Sounding a warning note about the future, Turan said, “If the lack of activity in restructuring Istanbul continues this way, a future earthquake will restructure the city in a dreadful way” as regulations are “still not enough to take further action in the city.”

Noting the thousands who died in their houses in the 1999 earthquake, he said: “Unfortunately, almost nothing has changed since that time. The lack of prevention continues.”

Turkey made a few improvements by enacting new laws and regulations, but the changes largely stayed on paper, according to the association chief.

There are still many unregistered buildings, which increase the risk of damage since they are not certified as proper residences by the authorities, he said.

Black-market products

An important problem was the continued use of black-market products, Turan said.

“To decrease the cost of residential building, there are many constructors using black-market products which are not registered or certified,” he said, adding that the use of such products could easily result in devastating damage from an earthquake.

 “The ruling government needs to take further action by making people more conscious about the growing risk of earthquakes and start a campaign to raise awareness among Turks. The government needs to keep an eye on all the construction activities with strict surveillance,” he said.

“If the needed actions are not taken urgently, weak residential buildings constructed with black-market materials will go on causing many to die.”

Land of earthquakes

Turkey stands on one of the world’s most active fault lines, with Istanbul located on the North Anatolian Fault. In addition to the 17,000 killed, the 1999 earthquake injured 50,000 and left nearly 500,000 people homeless. The earthquake caused damage worth $6.5 billion in the provinces of Istanbul, Kocaeli and Sakarya and was felt as far away as Ankara and Simferopol in Crimea, Ukraine.

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