New quakes cast doubts on safety of schools, hospitals
Erdinç ÇELİKKAN ANKARA
AA PhotoThe safety of schools and hospitals in Turkey is being questioned again as aftershocks continued on May 25, a day after a powerful earthquake centered north of the Aegean island of Gökçeada shook areas around western Turkey.
A 5.1-magnitude quake centered in the Aegean Sea struck western Turkey yesterday, in one of the many aftershocks after the previous day’s more powerful quake. The May 25 temblor occurred at 2:38 p.m. in the Saroz Gulf and was felt in western cities, including Istanbul, Doğan News Agency reported yesterday.
At midday on May 24, a quake measuring 6.5 according to Istanbul’s Kandilli Observatory caused damage and minor injuries, with the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) announcing that 266 people had been injured due to the panic caused by the earthquake. One person, who jumped from a balcony in Balıkesir’s Edremit district, was reportedly in a critical condition.
The latest quakes did not cause major damage, but were still alarming in a country that has been struck by a number of devastating earthquakes in the last two decades.
According to a report prepared by the geology branch of the Turkish Union of Engineers’ and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) in 2010, more than 20,000 people were killed in earthquakes, floods and avalanches between 1990 and 2008, and more than one million people had lost their homes.
The report stated that 98 percent of Turkey’s population faced risk from any potential earthquake, meaning that Turkey ranked fourth in total.
“As our country has not yet developed a successful strategy, quakes with magnitudes as small as five, which do not cause damage in developed countries, can cause serious risks,” it said.
The report added that buildings housing a higher number of people, such as hospitals, schools and dormitories, generally do not meet the adequate safety standards and are at particular risk in the event of an earthquake.
As for housing in Turkey, 40 percent is unlicensed and in need of improvement in water, gas and electricity infrastructure, according to TMMOB.
Following the May 24 quake, people rushed to the streets from their homes in western Turkish provinces, including Istanbul, İzmir, Denizli and Antalya.
The quake caused cracks in a hospital building in Çanakkale’s Yenice district. Patients have been evacuated from the Yenice State Hospital and a two-tent field hospital is being established in the district, officials have announced.
GSM networks collapsed due to overcapacity immediately after the quake, but services were soon restored.