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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid