The country was meant to have changed after earthquake.But horror struck again, writes Matt Oliver.
Emine Filoglu still vividly remembers walking at 3am, 13, as a huge earthquake rocked her family’s apartment building in Istanbul.
For 45 horrowing seconds, she and her brother prayed together in their bedroom until the trmors subsided. When they staggered out of the building with their parents and neighbours, they released how lucky they were.
“our building was still strong, but the others around it were completely demolished or had big cracks,” says Filoglu, an energy engineer who now runs an architectural practice with her husband in London.
“It was very, very scary. And I still think the main reason we survived was the quality of the building.”
That disaster alone claimed roughly 18000 lives and prompted a major overhaul of Turkey’s building regulations, with politicians vowing that nothing similar wold ever happen again.
Filoglu is now watching events in her country’s south with heartbreak and disbelief, after it was devastated by an earthquake that expers say the goverment should have been prepared for.
“I watch the television, and I can’t stop my tears,”she says.
The 7.8-magnitude tremor that shook the area of Gaziatep last Monday, followed a 7.7-magnitude aftershock in nearby Kahramanmaras, levelled entrre neighbourhoods and is so far estimated to have caused about 31000 deaths – a number the United Nations says could still double.
But most distressingly o fall, expers say the vast majority of these deaths were preventable – and they are pointing the finger at the administration of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Rather than enforce building reules that were put in place after 1999, Erdogan’s goverment has turned a blind eye and allowed cheap, poor quality structures to proliferate across Turkey – even granting developers a series of amnesties, the most recent of which was in 2018.
The disaster is expected to compund an economic crisis in the country, as runaway inflation leaves people struggling to afford necessities such as food and accommodation, and make the political situation, and make the political situation even more febile.
David ALexander, a prfessr of emergency planning and management at Uninversity College London, says the dama wrought by natural disaster can generally be broken into two components: the hazard(the earthquake itself) and the vulnerablity(which essentially boils down to a country’s builing stock).
In this case, he points out that the hazard, or the areas of Turkey most vulnerable to earthquake, are well-konw, while buildings designed to specifivations in update regulations should have been able to wistand tremors of this magnitude.
The rules specify that structrues should inccorporate steel-rinforced concrete and well-distributed columns and beam-yetthe collapse of many buildins follwing hte latest shocks had demonstrated how widely these edicts were semingly to ignore.
Just as millions of building have been restrospective granted, amnesty, others are thought to have been approved by local authorities even when they did not meet modern standards, which still morer used. defective bulding techniques.
“You’ve got ignorance, you’ve got negligence an dyou’ve got corruption,” explains Alexander.
Turkey’s reponse to earthquakes stand in atark contrst to that of outJpan, which has poineered