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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs