Amid the ongoing tragedy that struck Turkey and Seria on Monday, the 6th of February, evidence was uncovered of illegal and inferior building practices by building contractors in Turkey. Turkish government officials and residents blame poorly constructed buildings for adding to the destruction that has hit Turkey and the rising death toll. The death toll in Turkey reached 29 000 on Sunday night with 80 000 wounded.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay announced on Sunday, 11th of February, the Turkish government has issued arrest warrants for 131 building contractors who have been found guilty of construction code violations. They have also committed to opening a special task force, Earthquake Crimes Investigation (ECI), to assure that the contractors are brought to justice and held accountable. ECI will also guarantee the future safety of buildings by enforcing building codes and verifying permits.
As of this morning, 12 people have been arrested, with more to come as the Turkish police force splits their focus between rescue efforts and searching for the accused contractors.
Modern buildings, built according to construction safety standards should be able to survive an earthquake of magnitude 7, and buildings will sustain damage but should not collapse. The construction safety standards were set for quake-prone zones to minimize the death toll when an earthquake hits. The standards were updated in 2018. An apartment building was built only months before the tragedy and was claimed to be earthquake-safe by the construction company. The building collapsed inwards, indicating that the construction codes were not followed. A 9-story apartment block in Antakyawas reduced to dust and rubble. The building was completed in November 2019.
"The maximum intensity for this earthquake was violent but not necessarily enough to bring well-constructed buildings down," says Prof David Alexander in an interview with BBC News. Prof Alexander is an expert in emergency planning and management at the University College London.
This is not the first time the Turkish government has failed its citizens by not enforcing building codes. On the 17th of August 1999, an earthquake of 7.4 magnitudes struck İzmit, Turkey, and killed 17 000 people. It was uncovered that to boost the economy, a building boom was encouraged by waiving strict building codes and allowing permits to be issued on unauthorized buildings.
Two catastrophic disasters later, a 46 000 death total, and one upcoming Presidential election, what does the future hold for Turkey?
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