Sunday, 26 March, 2023

Turkey's lax policing of building codes flagged before quake

Turkey's lax policing of building codes flagged before quake

Popular News


Turkey has for years tempted fate by not enforcing modern construction codes while allowing — and in some cases, encouraging — a real estate boom in earthquake-prone areas, experts say.

The lax enforcement, which experts in geology and engineering have long warned about, is gaining renewed scrutiny in the aftermath of this week's devastating earthquakes, which flattened thousands of buildings and killed more than 20,000 people across Turkey and Syria.

“This is a disaster caused by shoddy construction, not by an earthquake,” said David Alexander, a professor of emergency planning at University College London.

It is common knowledge that many buildings in the areas pummeled by this week’s two massive earthquakes were built with inferior materials and methods, and often did not comply with government standards, said Eyup Muhcu, president of the Chamber of Architects of Turkey.

He said that includes many old buildings, but also apartments erected in recent years — nearly two decades after the country brought its building codes up to modern standards. “The building stock in the area was weak and not sturdy, despite the reality of earthquakes,” Muhcu said.

The problem was largely ignored, experts said, because addressing it would be expensive, unpopular and restrain a key engine of the country's economic growth.

To be sure, the back-to-back earthquakes that demolished or damaged at least 12,000 buildings were extremely powerful — their force magnified by the fact that they occurred at shallow depths. The first 7.8 magnitude quake occurred at 4:17 a.m., making it even more difficult for people to escape their buildings as the earth shook violently. And President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has acknowledged “shortcomings” in the country's response.