The reason for the collapse of a large number of buildings due to the earthquake in Turkey is the intensity of the earthquake or the incompetence of the government?

In Turkey, there is anger at the collapse of newly constructed apartment buildings due to the earthquake. The BBC examines three new-build buildings that were destroyed after the earthquake to find out what we can learn about ‘building safety’.

Two earthquakes occurred in Turkey and Syria on Monday, with magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5 respectively, and all kinds of buildings collapsed due to them.

However, these buildings also include those that were constructed some time ago, after which the building safety standards in the country are being questioned.

Due to modern construction techniques, buildings are able to withstand earthquakes of this magnitude. Because such disasters have happened here before, some rules and regulations have been made at the government level to ensure the safety of these buildings.

In one of the three buildings, footage posted on social media shows people running away from it screaming.

In Malatya, the lower part of the building has been the house, from which the rest of the building is tilted and close to collapse.

The apartments were built last year and according to an advertisement circulating on social media, the building was advertised as ‘earthquake proof’ and ‘built as per government regulations’. ‘

It also claims that all the materials used in it are of ‘first class quality’. The original ad is currently not available online, but screenshots and videos of other such ads are circulating on social media.

Because it was built last year, it means it must have been built according to the latest rules, which were updated in 2018, stipulating that earthquake-prone areas should be protected. There, best quality concrete should be used and it should be supported by steel bars. During construction, columns and beams should be placed in such a way that they are capable of withstanding earthquakes.

However, the BBC could not confirm the quality of construction in the block.

Another recently built apartment block in the coastal town of Iskenderun can be seen in the pictures, which has been badly affected. A part of this 16 storied building has completely collapsed leaving only a small part left.

The BBC spotted the image in an advertisement for a construction company that said it was completed in 2019.

This means that it will also be built according to the latest regulations. The BBC has contacted the construction company but has yet to receive a response.

Another photo confirmed by the BBC from Antakya shows a nine-storey apartment complex completely destroyed. The name of this building is Gochlo Bahche.

We have seen the video of the inauguration of the housing complex which confirms that it was completed in November 2019.

In the video, Sarawat Atlas, founder of Saral Construction Company, says that ‘Guchlo Bahche City project is unique due to its location and construction qualities.’

Speaking to the BBC, Atlas said that ‘I have built thousands of buildings. Unfortunately and very regrettably only two blocks have been demolished.’

He further said that the earthquake was so severe that no building was spared due to it.

“We see that some media organizations are changing people’s minds and making us a scapegoat,” he says.

With so many buildings collapsing throughout the affected area, many in Turkey are questioning the nature of the regulations.

This earthquake was certainly severe, but experts believe that if the buildings are constructed in a better way, earthquakes of this magnitude can withstand.

Professor David Alexander of University College London says that ‘the magnitude of this earthquake was certainly high but it should not have caused the collapse of buildings.’

“In many places, the magnitude of the tremors was low, so we can say that the collapse of thousands of buildings is evidence that they did not meet the prevailing building codes to withstand earthquakes,” he says.

Failure to enforce building construction rules

Construction regulations have been tightened in Turkey, especially after the 1999 earthquake that killed 17,000 people in the northwestern part of the country.

However, the failure to implement the latest laws introduced in 2018 is evident.

“One of the reasons for this is that old buildings have not been improved to the new rules and these construction rules have not been implemented in new buildings,” says Professor Alexander.

The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman spoke to people in the city of Adana, who said a building that was destroyed in the quake had been damaged in an earthquake 25 years ago but had not been repaired. were taken.

Countries like Japan where millions of people live in densely populated apartment buildings are an example of how building regulations are implemented. Earthquakes are common in Japan, but people are generally safe from them.

Building conservation rules may vary depending on the use of the building and its location. These include strengthening them, using motion dampers throughout the building, and building the entire building on ‘shock absorbers’ that decouple it from the ground.

Why is rule breaking common?

In Turkey, the government has provided ‘constructive amnesty’ in the past. This is a small amount for buildings that are constructed without certificates to this effect. These amnesties are being given since 1960 till date.

Critics have long argued about the dangerous consequences of these amnesties.

According to the head of Istanbul’s Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects Chamber of City Planners, amnesty has been granted in the construction of about 75,000 buildings in southern Turkey. Southern Turkey is the region most affected by the earthquake.

Just days before the disaster, Turkish media reported that a new law was being passed that would allow more amnesty for recent construction.

Geologist Selal Sengur said earlier this year that building amnesty in a country with fault lines is nothing short of a ‘crime’.

When the earthquake hit the western province of Izmir in 2020, BBC Turkey reported that 672,000 buildings were given amnesty.

The report also said that according to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, in 2018, 50 percent of the buildings in Turkey, which are about 1.3 million, were in violation of these rules.

When the ministry was asked about these rules, they said that ‘no building that has been constructed by us has collapsed. In this regard, the damage will continue to be assessed.

Additional reporting: Olga Smirnova, Alex Murray, Richard Irvine-Brown and Dale Yalcin.

By Shahab

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