Turkey earthquake: As huge cracks continue to show up, Istanbul residents fear home collapse

By India Today World Desk: The two powerful earthquakes in Turkey’s southeastern Kahramanmaras province that claimed almost 50,000 lives have brought a new urgency to its biggest city, Istanbul. As huge cracks continue to show up in the city’s buildings, residents are reeling under the underlying threat of house collapse, reported the BBC.

The metropolis accommodating 15 million individuals is located on the North Anatolian fault line and is anticipated to experience a significant earthquake of its own before 2030, according to experts.

Approximately 70% of the city’s edifices were constructed prior to the implementation of more stringent building codes in 1999, hence they are deemed potentially hazardous. Recently, a study revealed that a seismic event in this area could result in the deaths of up to 90,000 individuals. Consequently, efforts are underway to prepare the city for such an event.

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A resident, Mesut, who had just returned from Kahramanmaras, where he lost relatives, was forced to leave his flat in Istanbul.

“It happened at 04:17, a relative called and we all woke up screaming,” Mesut’s face crumpled into tears and he turned away to compose himself.

“It’s a horrible situation. We couldn’t get [to Kahramanmaras] for three days because of snow, and when we reached the rubble it was so hard. I can’t describe it. I hope God doesn’t make anyone else experience this,” he was quoted as saying by BBC.

When Mesut returned to Istanbul, the authorities had shut off power and water to his flat. “I asked for them back again just so we could move. They gave me two more days.”

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“The municipality had sent us a written warning about it, but the situation wasn’t resolved due to rejections from the neighbours. We knew that our utilities were going to be shut off, and we were ready to leave here, but then the quake happened and it all became a shambles.”

Following the earthquakes in southern Turkey, more than 100,000 applications have been submitted to the Istanbul municipality for building safety inspections. The waiting period for inspections has increased from three to four months and continues to rise. Both tenants and landlords are now eligible to apply, but financial implications discourage some from doing so. The compensation provided to those who need to evacuate condemned buildings is inadequate, and no official statistics indicate how many buildings fail the safety test.

A stroll along an average Istanbul street reveals why. Many buildings have specific design features that can cause them to collapse if subjected to seismic pressure. Dr. Kurtulus Atasever, a structural and earthquake engineer, demonstrated some of these issues during a meeting.

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Good quality concrete and architecture are vital, he said. “We have some overhangs here. In this type of building, we have some weak or soft storeys. There are short columns too, they are actually all typical building problems,” Atasever was quoted as saying by BBC.

To put it simply, each of these design flaws reduces a building’s strength at ground level, making it difficult to support the floors above in the event of an earthquake. An overhang extends the building’s width beyond its foundation, while soft storeys are characterised by a ground floor that is taller than the upper floors. Short columns lack the necessary length in relation to their diameter.

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