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Why Did So Many Buildings Collapse In The Turkey Earthquake?

Why did so many buildings collapse in the Turkey earthquake? These is part of some questions a lot of people are asking. When Turkey was hit by earthquakes, people saw brand-new apartments fall down, which made them angry. The BBC looked at three new buildings that had been destroyed to see what they could say about building safety.

Henry Hamer
Feb 10, 20231204 Shares57350 Views
Why did so many buildings collapse in the Turkey earthquake?These are part of some questions a lot of people are asking. When Turkey was hit by earthquakes, people saw brand-new apartments fall down, which made them angry.
Southern Turkey and northern Syria were hit by two major earthquakes of magnitudes 7.8 and 7.5, respectively, which caused widespread damage and claimed the lives of thousands. However, the collapse of even some of the newest residential complexes has prompted pressing concerns about the adequacy of building codes.
Using modern building techniques, buildings should be able to withstand quakes of this size. After disasters happened in the country before, rules were made to make sure these safety features were built in.
In the first of the three new building collapses that the BBC has found, people can be seen screaming and running for cover on social media videos. In Malatya, the bottom half of an apartment building is falling apart, leaving the top half to stand at an angle over dust and rubble.
Social media footage shows people screaming and rushing for cover after the first of three fresh building collapses discovered by the BBC. A Malatya apartment building has collapsed halfway, leaving the upper floors to lean precariously over the smoldering ruins below.
Screenshots of advertisements for the apartments, which were built last year, have been widely distributed online since they claim the structure was "finished in accordance with the newest earthquake rules." Everything advertised was of "first-class quality," the ad claimed. The original advertisement has been removed from the internet, but screenshots and videos of it are still being widely distributed. You can tell these commercials are from the same company because they all use the same screenshots and videos.
Because it was recently constructed, it should adhere to the most recent regulations, which were revised in 2018. High-quality concrete with steel reinforcement bars is required by these regulations for construction in seismically active regions.
Spreading out the columns and beams helps them better absorb the shaking caused by earthquakes. The BBC has not been able to verify that the building complies with all codes.
Photos reveal that another recently constructed apartment complex in the maritime city of Iskenderun was severely damaged. The entire rear and side of the 16-story building collapsed, leaving only a remnant of the block intact.
An image of the collapsed building was matched by the BBC with a publicity photo from the building company, which revealed that the project had been finished in 2019. This implies that it should have been constructed in accordance with the most contemporary standards. The BBC has attempted to contact the building firm but has not yet received a response.
Another BBC-confirmed image from Antakya shows the majority of a nine-story apartment complex reduced to rubble, with the name of the building, Guclu Bahce, scrawled on a sign.

Turkey-Syria earthquakes: Why did buildings collapse?

A video of the opening ceremony for the housing complex was found, which shows that it was finished in November 2019. Servet Atlas, the owner of Ser-Al Construction, says in the video:
The Guclu Bahce City project is particularly special compared to the others in terms of its location and construction qualities. Out of the hundreds of buildings I've built in Hatay, two of them have collapsed, which is very sad.- Servet Atlas, the owner of Ser-Al Construction
He also says that the earthquake was so big that almost no buildings in the city were still standing after it. "We painfully witness how some media organizations are changing perception and picking scapegoats under the guise of reporting," he said.
Since so many buildings have fallen down in the affected area, many people in Turkey have been wondering what the rules are for building. Experts say that even though the quakes were strong, buildings that were built well should have been able to stand.
Prof. David Alexander, an expert in emergency planning and management at University College London, says:
The maximum intensity for this earthquake was violent but not necessarily enough to bring well constructed buildings down. In most places the level of shaking was less than the maximum, so we can conclude out of the thousands of buildings that collapsed, almost all of them don't stand up to any reasonably expected earthquake construction code.- Prof. David Alexander, an expert in emergency planning and management at University College London
After disasters like an earthquake that killed 17,000 people around the city of Izmit in the northwest of the country in 1999, building rules have become stricter. But the laws, including the most recent ones from 2018, have not been enforced well.
Prof. Alexander says, "In part, the problem is that there's very little retrofitting of existing buildings, but there's also very little enforcement of building standards on new builds."
The Guclu Bahce complex in Antakya badly damaged in the earthquakes
The Guclu Bahce complex in Antakya badly damaged in the earthquakes
Tom Bateman, the BBC's Middle East Correspondent, talked to people in the southern city of Adana. They said that one of the buildings that collapsed had been damaged in another earthquake 25 years ago, but it wasn't fixed up properly.
Even though Japan has a history of strong earthquakes, millions of people live in densely populated high-rise buildings. This shows how building codes can help keep people safe in disasters.
Depending on what a building is used for and how close it is to areas where earthquakes are most likely, there are different safety requirements for building construction. These range from simple strengthening to installing motion dampers throughout the building to putting the whole structure on top of a giant shock absorber to isolate it from the movement of the ground.

Exactly Why Is Enforcement So Lax?

However, the Turkish government occasionally grants "building amnesties." In exchange for a price, they are essentially legal exemptions for buildings that lack the necessary safety certificates. These have been in existence since the 1960s, with the most recent update being in 2018. For a long time, critics have warned that such amnesties could be disastrous in the event of a major earthquake.
According to Pelin Pnar Giritliolu, head of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects' Chamber of City Planners in Istanbul, construction amnesties have been given to up to 75,000 buildings in the quake-hit area of southern Turkey.
Just a few days before the latest disaster, Turkish media reported that a new draft law that would give more amnesty for recent construction work is waiting for approval by parliament. Celal Sengor, a geologist, said earlier this year that giving construction amnesty in a country with many fault lines is a "crime."
In 2020, a deadly earthquake hit the western province of Izmir, and a BBC Turkish report found that the most recent amnesty had helped 672,000 buildings in Izmir. The Environment and Urbanisation Ministry was quoted in the same report as saying that in 2018, more than 50% of buildings in Turkey, or almost 13 million buildings, were built without following the rules.


When asked about building standards after the recent earthquakes, the Environment and Urbanisation Ministry said, "No building constructed by our administration has collapsed. Damage assessment studies are continuing rapidly in the field."
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