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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid