Turkey not ready for big quake, 7 million buildings ‘unsafe,’ says union of architects
ISTANBULTurkey is not ready for next big earthquake as seven millions dwellings in the country, including two million in Istanbul, are “unsafe,” the Istanbul office of the Union of Architects and Engineers of Turkey (TMMOB) stated on Aug. 15.
“There are 20 million structures in our country. Seven million of these are not safe. In a possible Istanbul earthquake, a city with a population of up to 18 million will have to squeeze into 20 hectares of safe land. As a result, a city with a population of 18 million is almost bowing to its destiny as it waits for the next earthquake,” TMMOB Istanbul office head Nusret Suna said in a written statement.
The statement was issued on the 18th anniversary of the 1999 Marmara earthquake, the worst seismic disaster in Turkey’srecent history which killed over 17,000 people.
“Two million dwellings in Istanbul do not give any reassurance about the quake,” the statement said, noting that these structures are at risk of collapsing in any earthquake.
“It is not known when the earthquake will take place, but official statements say public institutions will be made safe ‘before 2021’ or that ‘20 years are needed’ for all private dwellings to be made safe. In even the most optimistic prediction, the lives of thousands of Istanbul residents are in danger,” the statement added.
It also warned that many areas previously assigned as earthquake assembly areas in Istanbul were now being used for other purposes. In March, the TMMOB revealed that 300 out of 470 such assembly areas were being used as shopping malls and business centers.
“The opening of the earthquake assembly areas to settlement or parking lot space is an indication that the authorities care more about profit making than human life. Earthquake assembly areas should be big and wide areas on which container cities can be established, incorporating infrastructure that can meet basic needs such as electricity, water, heating, showering, and toilets. Ongoing ‘urban transformation projects’ are not being undertaken with a focus on earthquakes, but instead with a focus on profit-making,” said the TMMOB’s Aug. 15 statement.
“In the 18th anniversary of the Aug. 17, 1999 earthquake, we want to ask the question that we have asked several times before again: Is our country ready for an earthquake and is Istanbul ready?” it added.
The 1999 quake had a magnitude of 7.5 and hit Turkey’s most industrial and densely populated region, killing 17,480 people. Over 285,000 buildings were damaged and 600,000 people were left homeless after the 45-second quake, which left social and economic wounds that took years to heal.