TODAY’S – Turkey’s quake-readiness no better than before 1999

Turkey’s quake-readiness no better than before 1999Although 15 years have passed since a devastating earthquake hit the Marmara region in 1999, Turkey has taken insufficient measures since then and is leaving the country vulnerable to another major quake.The magnitude 74 earthquake left at least 18,000 people dead and many others disabled when it hit the Marmara region on Aug.

17, 1999. Fifteen years later, Turkey is wondering when the area will be hit by another one, with many expressing concerns about the readiness of the countryand#39s most populous city, Istanbul, for a big quake.

Although the country has completed some of the necessary preparations in the event of a major earthquake, there is still much to be done to be fully prepared for a major earthquake.Earthquake experts have long been saying that Turkey is certainly not prepared for a potentially devastating earthquake, but in addition to a lack of preparedness, what has been done up until now is too little and at too slow a pace.

If a powerful quake hits the city, with thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands injured, lost, 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 with them in issuing zoning permits, has lost its designated spaces for large crowds to gatherRecent media reports said half of the 480 empty plots that were allocated for people to gather in and set up tents following quakes or other natural disasters in Istanbul in 2001, in line with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipalityand#39s Emergency Action Plan, were opened up to construction. Residential units or shopping malls have been constructed in 240 of these empty plots since then.

There is also criticism from professional unions and chambers that andldquourban renewalandrdquo projects, which supposedly seek to improve buildings and urban infrastructure, only serve to fill the pockets of friends of the government and are the number one reason behind the authoritiesand#39 failure in preparing Turkeyand#39s cities for earthquakes.Urban renewal projects — which, despite the nice-sounding name, are mostly about building high-rise blocks and shopping malls — do not have enough legal protection.

In 2012, the government passed Law 6306 on the Transformation of Areas Under Disaster Risk, often called the andldquoDisaster Lawandrdquo by both its opponents and supporters, which gives enormous powers to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning to destroy any obstacle standing in the way of a construction company with a major development project.So far, an insignificant number of urban renewal projects has been put into action in Istanbuland#39s districts that are defined as first-degree quake areas and where building quality is poor, such as AvcIlar, Zeytinburnu, BakIrky, Maltepe, BaIcIlar and BayrampaIa Such projects have begun to be implemented in regions such as KadIky, BeyoIlu, GaziosmanpaIa, Kuukekmece, SarIyer, Armutlu and uskudar not to prepare these places for a quake but to make money with the transformation of buildings there.

According to Chamber of Civil Engineers (IMO) Istanbul Branch President Cemal Gke, who said Istanbul is very likely to be hit by a quake with a magnitude bigger than seven, there is a need for a holistic approach to urban renewal. According to him, the city cannot be prepared for a quake with urban renewal projects that are independent from one anotherandldquoThose who govern Istanbul say they have prepared the city in case of an earthquake, but they are ignoring the fact that they are making the city vulnerable to new disasters with their crazy projects.

To be honest, Istanbuland#39s situation today is no better than that of 1999 [with regard to quake readiness],andrdquo he said.There are four mega-projects planned — a third bridge over the Bosporus a new airport in place of a large forested area a new highway, also cutting through the cityand#39s only remaining forests to the north and a new waterway running parallel to the Bosporus Strait in the western part of the province — and environmental groups say the projects are bound to cause irreversible damage and make the city more prone to natural disasters.

In addition, the poor quality of houses built everywhere by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKI), mostly for low and middle-income families, leads to concerns about their resilience in the event of a quake TOKI has been facing increasing criticism and lawsuits due to the use of inferior materials and poor workmanship in its mass housing projects.Hundreds of lawsuits have been brought against the housing authority so far over claims of a defective final product, delayed delivery of the houses and miscalculation of housing payment installments.

TOKI has constructed more than 630,000 buildings across Turkey since 2002. The administration, working under the Prime Ministryand#39s Office, says it focuses on providing inexpensive but high-quality housing on payment plans stretching over 15-20 years.

The feedback from its customers, however, raises questions about the quality of TOKI housing.In addition to sturdier construction, earthquake preparedness efforts include educating residents and improving disaster response systems — efforts in which Turkey has so far failed badly, and failed in favor of construction business profiteering.

Even after minor earthquakes, there are injuries in Turkey resulting from people jumping out of windows and off balconies in an attempt to escape from buildings.The panic demonstrated by people when minor quakes occur gives a glimpse into a significant problem: the lack of awareness about what to do during earthquakes.

First tsunami center opens in TurkeyTurkeyand#39s first center for the monitoring and assessment of regional earthquakes and tsunamis is at Bosporus Universityand#39s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute.The center, which was designed to function in every sort of weather condition, opened on the anniversary of the Aug.

17 earthquake. With the help of this new center, the world-renowned Kandilli Institute will be able to collect data and make assessments, processing and releasing information under a single body and with high security standards.

The building has been built as an environment-friendly structure.Speaking at the opening ceremony of the center, Mustafa Erdik, the manager of the Kandilli Institute, said the center will be primarily engaged in monitoring tsunamis in the East Mediterranean and give an early warning signal to countries in the region including Turkey.

Wreaths placed, flowers thrown at 03:02 amIn the Glcuk district of Kocaeli, which was the epicenter of the Aug. 17 earthquake, victims of the tragedy were commemorated in a wreath-laying ceremony where people threw flowers into the sea at 03.

02 am, the time of the devastating quake 15 years ago.People prayed, cried and comforted one another at the event held at the KavaklI seaside with the attendance of Glcuk District Governor Adem YazIcI and Glcuk Mayor Mehmet EllibeI.

The Navy Command Base in Glcuk also held a ceremony for the 420 marine soldiers who lost their lives in the earthquake.Residents of Sakarya, which was badly affected by the Aug.

17 earthquake and lost nearly 4,000 people, commemorated the victims with prayers and verses from the Quran at 03.02 am at the Kent public square.

Yalova suffered 2,500 deaths in the 1999 incident, and locals bearing torches participated in a march toward the earthquake monument in the Aug. 17 Park.

The crowd then stood in front of the earthquake memorial monument for a minuteand#39s silence to remember the earthquake victims.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman