Court issues small fine for those responsible for buildings destroyed in 2011 earthquake
A Turkish court has given controversial sentences to the ones responsible for a building that collapsed and killed 10 residents after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit the eastern province of Van in 2011.
The court initially sentenced the owners as well as the civil engineer of the destroyed building to six years and eight months in jail for involuntary manslaughter but later turned these sentences into small judicial fines.
The defendants will be able to pay the judicial fines of 46,800 Turkish Liras ($5,300) in 24 installments, which corresponds to 1,950 liras ($223) per month.
On Oct. 23, 2011, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake rattled the eastern province of Van’s Erciş district and claimed 644 lives, including 10 residents of the destroyed Işık Apartment.
Another 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck the city less than three weeks after the previous earthquake on Nov. 9, 2011, in the same area.
As a result of the first earthquake, Işık Apartment crumbled down before its residents even had a chance to escape, while Kaya Apartment, the twin building right next to the Işık Apartment, collapsed a little later, but its residents were able to get themselves out.
The incident revealed striking details regarding earthquake and building safety.
Nazmi Alkan decided to build two buildings on the land he owned and agreed with Gültekin Çavuşoğlu, who was one of the few civil engineers in the district in the 1980s.
According to the indictment of the lawsuit filed in the Erciş Court, an application was made to obtain a license for the land where the twin buildings are located, but the municipality permitted two floors in addition to the ground floor only.
Construction started after the license, but in 1983, Alkan sold the unfinished constructions to Işık and Kaya Brothers as his financial situation did not allow him to continue the construction.
However, in 2004, a new license application was made for the completed apartments, and one more floor was added to each apartment building. As the process continued, another floor was added to Işık Apartment, which crumbled down quickly when the earthquake hit in 2011.
In the court, Işık and Kaya Brothers denied the accusations, stating that the best quality materials were used in the construction of the twin buildings.
Çavuşoğlu reminded that both buildings should normally have three floors, but a license was obtained for an additional floor in the following period.
“An illegal floor was also built in Işık Apartment. The reason for the collapse is that the building is under a load more than it can carry,” Çavuşoğlu said.
After 10 years of trial, the court sentenced the defendants to six years and eight months in prison.
However, it turned the jail time to a judicial fine due to the defendants’ personalities, their social and economic conditions and their roles in the involvement of the crime.