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Illegal construction seen as a major cause in Van quake

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 10/27/2011 12:00:00 AM | ÇAĞLA PINAR TUNÇEL

Prime Minister Erdoğan’s comments on demolishing all illegal constructions in Turkey rises questions on how the assessment will be realized. Experts say more than 40 years and $66 billion will be needed for such a procedure

Questions have arisen after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the government would demolish illegal construction, no matter the cost.

 “Instead of experiencing the same incidents repeatedly, it is more auspicious to lose your governing power,” Erdoğan said Oct. 26. Erdoğan said legal amendments would soon authorize the government to demolish shoddy buildings and compensate their owners as a solution to Turkey’s chronic problem of sub-standard construction.

Professor Semih Tezcan said only one month would have been needed to assess risky buildings in the eastern province of Van, where more than 500 people have died and more than 1,300 have been injured since a 7.2-magnitude quake struck the city on Oct. 23.

According to Tezcan, public institution buildings should be assessed as well. “In first- and second-degree areas of risk, 22,475 schools, 6,585 hospitals and 24,335 public buildings are waiting to be retrofitted,” Tezcan told the Hürriyet Daily News. He said more than 40 years and $66 billion were needed for the procedure.

Işık Gökkaya, chairman of the Association of Real Estate Investment Companies (GYODER), in the meantime, said half of the 3.5 million buildings in Istanbul were illegal and 40 to 45 percent of buildings should be rebuilt in Turkey.

Emphasizing that a list of buildings constructed before the deadly 1999 quake should be prepared immediately, he said building inspections that previously were launched in 19 cities will be expanded throughout the country, Anatolia news agency reported Oct. 27.

 Real Estate Investment’s Executive Chairman Ömer Faruk Çelik said everyone blamed construction workers in both the 1999 quake and the recent quake. “No one questioned those who approved the construction, those who gave the licenses, the building inspectors,” Çelik said, adding that constructing quake-resistant buildings was the responsibility of everyone from the public to the private sector.

Çelik also said an urban transformation campaign should be launched, and municipalities should warn owners after detecting weak buildings in the city.

[HH]‘Istanbul is in great danger’

“Those who raised their voices regarding the lack of an earthquake institution in Istanbul, why were they silent about illegal buildings?” Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Kadir Topbaş said on private channel NTV.

“We will take radical steps and will publicize the weak and illegal buildings, and the people who have common sense will accept the costs of the expropriation,” said Topbaş, adding that the state will not let anyone suffer.

Tezcan emphasized that more than 60 percent of buildings in Istanbul were over 20 years old and lacked earthquake protection.

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