HomeConstructionEarthquake: Anger over construction standards in Turkey as combined quake toll rises

    Earthquake: Anger over construction standards in Turkey as combined quake toll rises

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    By: Harshit Sabarwal

    Many recently constructed buildings in Turkey have collapsed following the latest earthquakes. The reason for this is the poor enforcement of construction standards and safety regulations.

    With over 19,000 people killed due to earthquake in Turkey and Syria on Monday and aftershocks, and the toll increasing further to over 19,300, there is widespread anger among the Turkish people over the construction quality and standards of buildings in their country.

    According to a report by the BBC on Wednesday (February 8), poor enforcement of regulations has contributed to the collapse of many buildings — including those built as recently as 2022 — in Turkey in the earthquakes. Construction regulations in the country were tightened following previous disasters, most recently in 2018. The report said that stringent safety standards were introduced following the quake in 1999 when over 17,000 had died.

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    The latest regulations require structures in earthquake-prone regions to use high-quality concrete, reinforced with steel bars. Columns and beams must also be distributed to effectively absorb the impact of earthquakes. However, these laws have been poorly enforced.

    Recently constructed buildings collapsed after quake

    The BBC report verified examples of some recently constructed buildings which collapsed in the latest earthquakes. A building in Malatya city, which was finished in 2022, collapsed in Monday’s quake. According to an advertisement on social media, this building was completed in compliance with the latest earthquake regulations. The advertisement also said that all materials used were of first-class quality.

    Another apartment block in the port city of Iskenderun was largely destroyed due to the quake. The construction of this building was completed in 2019. Another building which was opened in Antakya in 2019, was largely destroyed.

    Although the recent earthquakes have been powerful, experts pointed out that properly constructed buildings should have been able to withstand the tremors, the BBC report said.

    It quoted David Alexander, Professor of Emergency Planning and Management at University College London, as saying that the maximum intensity for this earthquake was quite high but not necessarily enough to bring down well-constructed quake-resistant buildings down.

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    “In most places, the level of shaking was less than the maximum, so we can conclude out of the thousands of buildings that collapsed, almost all of them don’t stand up to any reasonably expected earthquake construction code,” Alexander added.

    Critics warn on construction amnesties provided by govt

    The Turkish government has provided periodic construction amnesties — effectively legal exemptions for payment of a fee, for those structures that are built without the required safety certificates. However, critics warned that such amnesties risk catastrophe in the event of a major earthquake, the BBC report added.

    In Southern Turkey, 75,000 buildings across the affected quake zone were given construction amnesties, said the Istanbul head of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects’ Chamber of City Planners.

    And just a few days before the latest quakes, local media reported that a new draft law is awaiting parliamentary approval which would grant further amnesty for recent construction work.

    The anger at govt doesn’t end here

    Apart from the anger about the standards of buildings, Turkish citizens have also severely censured the government over its response to the latest earthquakes. A report by the news agency AFP on Thursday (February 9) said that the police detained 18 people since Monday over “provocative” social media posts that criticised how the government had been dealing with the disaster. On social media, several people complained about lack of search and rescue efforts in their provinces.

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    Twitter was blocked on Turkish mobile providers on Wednesday due to mounting online criticism. However, the site still worked using VPN services that disguise a user’s location. The services were restored by early Thursday. (WION)

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