News / Europe

    Istanbul Earthquake Reconstruction Feared Unsafe

    Historic Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey, July 21, 2010.
    Historic Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey, July 21, 2010.
    Dorian Jones
    ISTANBUL — Istanbul's 15 million people are facing an 80 percent chance of a major earthquake in the next 30 years.  In preparation for the predicted quake, the government and local authorities have started to rebuild more than one-third of Istanbul's structures.  But, controversy surrounds the reconstruction policy and experts worry the preparations are inadequate.

    Turkey's main earthquake monitoring center hums to the sound of powerful computers.  It was here at the Kandili Observatory the first news broke of the powerful quake that hit the Istanbul region in 1999, killing up to 30,000 people.  Observatory Director Mustafa Erdik warns a far more devastating quake could occur.  

    "The tectonic tensions after the 1999 quake have transferred to Marmara region, and this increased the tension," said Erdik. "There is a high risk, with a two-percent rise every year, for an earthquake to happen."

    Last year's powerful quake in the eastern city of Van, set alarm bells ringing in Ankara.  An estimated 60,000 people were left homeless and more than 600 were killed.  Much of the devastation was blamed on badly or illegally built structures.  

    Experts say Istanbul faces similar problems, but on much greater scale, being home to about 15 million people.  This year the government passed legislation to rebuild Istanbul.

    Under the new law, homes considered dangerous by a panel of state appointed experts will be replaced.  Owners will be given a smaller apartment in a new building or have to pay the difference in value between old and new.  

    In Istanbul's Zeytinburnu district the law is already in effect.  Construction is well underway for new apartment blocks.  

    The area is one of the poorest in the city and more than 2,000 buildings are at risk, about 12 percent of the housing stock according to Deputy Mayor Zafer Alsac.   

    "The biggest problem is illegal buildings, and the quality of older buildings and living arrangements are not good," said Alsac. "Replacing those buildings will not damage "the fabric of the neighborhood," as critics have said, because there is no fabric to damage."

    City authorities say as many as one-third of Istanbul's buildings will eventually be replaced.  The massive construction project will mainly be undertaken by the state body, Toki, but there is growing concern about the strategy.

    Istanbul chamber of architects head Mucelle Yapici says she is concerned that rather than solving the quake threat it could make matters worse

    "What is being done to reduce the effect of the quake is increasing the danger, " warned Yapici.  "The new buildings have increased the population density, and while they may be well constructed to resist a quake, the land they are built on is not solid and is unsafe."

    Experts also point out Toki is attached to the prime minister's office and is largely exempt from independent scrutiny, including the construction inspection law.  

    All the new buildings by Toki in Istanbul are bigger than those they replace, to cover the costs of the construction.  With many in prime city locations, observers say profits are likely to be considerable.

    At a Zeytinburnu community center the threat of an earthquake and the new construction projects are on the lips of many, although opinion is divided.
     
    This man says, many people heard the municipality is given 300 apartments by the contractor.  He says it appears the money from those apartments goes into the pocket of someone, not to the local people.

    But another disagrees:

    He says there is no problem, because for the life and future of his family and children he would like to live in such a place. He says even if the new home will be smaller there can be no comparison of value of the new apartment to the older one.

    At an estimated cost of $600 billion, the rebuilding of Istanbul has been described by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as one of the construction projects of the century.  But the question of who will benefit from it will be answered by how successfully Istanbul copes with a much predicted earthquake.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora