Turkey: What the earthquake disaster has to do with the buildings there

Turkey: What the earthquake disaster has to do with the buildings there

disaster in Turkey
“Pancake” Collapse: What the Scale of the Earthquake Disaster Has to Do with Buildings in the Region

After the earthquake in Turkey: Emergency teams search for people in the rubble of a building in Adana

After the earthquake in Turkey: Emergency teams search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building in the city of Adana

© Hussein Malla/AP/DPA

Another severe earthquake has shaken Turkey and northern Syria. According to the WHO, “potentially 23 million people” are affected. The large number is also related to the buildings in the area.

The day after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake and 7.5 magnitude aftershock in the Turkey and in northern Syria, the full extent of the damage is gradually becoming clear. According to authorities and rescue workers, more than 5,000 people were killed and more than 23,500 injured in the disaster – but the number of victims is likely to continue to rise significantly. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already pointed out that the number of deaths in earthquakes is often “eight times higher than the first balance sheets”.

The total number of those affected is significantly larger. Loud WHO an overview of the affected regions revealed that “potentially 23 million people” are suffering from the consequences of the tremors. One reason for this: the quake occurred near densely populated areas. Its epicenter was not far from Gaziantep, a major Turkish city and provincial capital. Another reason: there seemed to be many buildings in these areas that were far from earthquake-proof.

Thousands of buildings have collapsed in Turkey alone

Vulnerable buildings stood in the disaster-hit regions, confirmed Kishor Jaiswal, an engineer with the United States Geological Survey. the Associated Press news agency (AP). While new structures in cities like Istanbul in north-west Turkey have been designed with modern seismic standards in mind, this area in the south of the country has many older high-rise buildings. The collapses also included so-called “pancake” collapses, in which a building collapses in on itself with the upper floors falling like pancakes directly onto the floors below – a sign that the structures could not absorb the tremors, he said Jaiswal.

In Turkey alone, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, almost 3,000 buildings collapsed in a total of seven provinces, including the state hospitals in Iskenderun and Adiyaman. Erdogan’s Vice President Fuat Oktay even spoke of 5,700 collapsed buildings. And of those that are still standing, many have been rendered uninhabitable by the tremors. “This is the horrifying level of devastation and destruction that we would expect if a powerful quake hits a region with buildings that are not secured,” AP quoted Ilan Kelman, expert on disasters and Health at University College London.

Many of the collapsed buildings appear to have been constructed of concrete without adequate seismic reinforcement, writes the media network “The Conversation”. According to seismic building codes in this region, these buildings should be able to withstand strong earthquakes, in which the ground accelerates by 30 to 40 percent of normal gravity, without collapsing. Tuesday’s earthquakes appeared to have caused tremors in the range of 20 to 50 percent of gravity. Some of the buildings collapsed when the earthquake intensity was below the “design code”.

That in Turkey there are problems with the safe construction of buildings and compliance with building regulations in terms of earthquake there is nothing new. Similar building burglaries have also occurred in previous events of this type. In 1999, for example, a severe earthquake near Izmit collapsed around 20,000 buildings and killed around 17,000 people. After an earthquake in 2011 in which hundreds of people died, Erdogan blamed shoddy construction work for the high number of fatalities: “The municipalities, contractors and construction managers should now realize that their negligence is tantamount to murder,” the president warned at the time .

Earthquake hits rebel areas in north-west Syria

But even if the Turkish authorities know that many buildings are not earthquake-proof, the problem is difficult to solve, as “The Conversation” reports. Ankara issued new regulations in 2019 to ensure that buildings are better protected against vibrations. However, many of the buildings are already built unsafe and retrofitting earthquake-proofing can be very expensive or not considered a priority compared to other socio-economic challenges.

Also in the northwest of Syria The quake destroyed numerous buildings. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring agency, buildings in at least 58 villages, towns and cities in the north-west of the country are damaged in whole or in part. Above all, the rapid construction activity here – many refugees live in the region who needed accommodation quickly – and the years of war could have made the buildings vulnerable.

“We have quite a number of hospitals that had been hit earlier in the war, so the foundations were already weakened,” Brit Shajul Islam, a doctor at a hospital in Idlib, AP, described the situation in rebel-held areas. With the added impact of the earthquake, “we had at least three or four hospitals that I know of that were shut down.”

Sources: “The Conversation”, Associated Press I, Associated Press II

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