Turkey’s biggest province is more vulnerable than ever to earthquakes, a senior civil engineer has claimed.
The head of the Istanbul branch of Chamber of Civil Engineers, Cemal Gokce, said on Monday that almost 500 sites earmarked as safe zones for people to gather in event of an earthquake, had been sold for development.
In 1999, a magnitude-7.4 tremor hit the industrialized Turkish province of Kocaeli, leaving over 18,000 people dead.
Gokce was speaking at a seismic conference attended by dozens of experts in Istanbul and organized by the Istanbul Technical University, TMMOB Chamber of Civil Engineers and the Turkey Earthquake Foundation.
“After the 1999 earthquake, a 14-member Provincial Disaster Board – which I was part of — determined 493 places for gathering and station tents, working almost three years."
“Around three-quarters of these places [have been] handed over for unfair profit,” Gokce claimed.
“Today Istanbul is no more prepared than in 1999,” he added.
Istanbul – 80 km west of Kocaeli – was also badly affected by the quake, the deadliest in Turkey in 60 years. Around 1,000 people were killed in buildings unable to withstand the enormous forces generated.
Monday’s gathering came after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, killing more than 7,500 people on April 25.
Gokce said that the conference was to discuss new building systems as well as strengthening and repairing existing structures.
According to experts, a big earthquake could happen at any moment in Turkey and the country has been carrying out projects – which were launched in 2012 – to minimize the risks, with urban renewal happening across the country.
Almost 70 percent of buildings in Istanbul are still at risk; 27 percent are at “high risk” and must be demolished immediately, according to data from the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning.
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