Malls, houses built on areas allocated for assembly after earthquake in Istanbul

Shopping malls and luxury housing have been built on more than half the areas designated as emergency assembly areas in Istanbul following a devastating earthquake in 1999, according to the head of a leading nongovernmental organization that deals with rescue operations. “Following the earthquake [in 1999], 480 areas in Istanbul were announced as assembly zones.

They [the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party)] have zoned more than half of these areas

Shopping malls and luxury housing have been built on more than half the areas designated as emergency assembly areas in Istanbul following a devastating earthquake in 1999, according to the head of a leading nongovernmental organization that deals with rescue operations.

Following the earthquake [in 1999], 480 areas in Istanbul were announced as assembly zones.

They [the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party)] have zoned more than half of these areas for construction — [for] malls, residences, Nasuh Mahruki, head of the Turkish Search and Rescue Society (AKUT), told the Buguumln daily on Monday.

A total of 270 of the 480 areas set aside by a coalition government for people to gather following a potentially deadly earthquake are known to be zoned for construction.

When a devastating earthquake struck near Istanbul in 1999, current President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan was mayor of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and the city has been under AK Party rule ever since.

According to Mahruki, those responsible for this should be held accountable.

Demanding to know by what right so many areas reserved for assembly have been zoned for construction, Mahruki told the daily: This represents a betrayal of the public, nation and the state. They [representatives of the ruling party] have filled their pockets.

Mahruki also underlined that money collected from the public based on a tax introduced by the coalition government in power when the earthquake hit has been used for other purposes by the AK Party governments.

We know nothing about how much tax has been collected within this framework.

That has never been announced. When asked [in the past] what happened to all this money, the minister of finance claimed that roads were built with it.

A response previously given by a top government official to a parliamentary question revealed that Istanbul, a city of almost 15 million inhabitants, has no place to temporarily accommodate more than around 17 percent of the city’s population in the case of a major natural disaster

Deputy Prime Minister Numan KurtulmuI said, in response to a question by Umut Oran, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), that a maximum of 15 million people can be accommodated in schools and sports facilities that are estimated to be earthquake-proof.

Tents to be established in areas still available for emergency assembly in the city can host an additional 115 million people.

According to some estimates, 35,000 to 40,000 people died in the 1999 earthquake, although the official figure was around 18,000. The earthquake was felt most severely in Kocaeli, a province to the east of Istanbul.

Should a strong quake hit the city, with perhaps tens of thousands injured, lost or trapped under the rubble in need of immediate rescue or medical attention, Istanbul will need open spaces for survivors to gather and where authorities will be able to help those in need, distribute supplies and minimize further losses from aftershocks.

Gathering in open spaces is a fundamental part of post-quake disaster management.

But Istanbul, thanks to the influence of contractors and the cooperation of the local government and relevant ministries in issuing zoning permits, has lost its designated spaces for large crowds to gather

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN