Buildings, buildings and more buildings: that’s what you see along the Turkish coastline and in the cities. They shoot up like mushrooms, often they are not even finished. Even the trees on green hills have to give way to the Turkish building drive. Is the population here really growing so fast that there is such a high demand for housing? There seems to be no end to it. If you can earn money with something in Turkey, it is with the construction of houses.
The construction industry is the driving force behind the Turkish economy and is strongly linked to politics. Major construction projects have been launched under President Erdogan in recent years. Many of these buildings have been erected illegally. The Turkish construction sector is not unfamiliar with a little corruption. For example, construction was done with the wrong building materials, rules and permits were circumvented, and safety rules were tampered with.
But in the end it’s blood money. Everyone knows that Turkey is an earthquake-prone country: the population, the project developers, the contractors, the politicians. The 1999 Izmit earthquake is still etched on the retina of many a Turk as one of the greatest national disasters ever. Also then many non-earthquake-resistant buildings collapsed. At least 17,000 people died.
During the recent earthquakes, more than 82,000 buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. The death toll is so high because buildings have been completely destroyed. It’s called ‘Pancake collapse’, when entire floors collapse and pancakes fall on top of each other. A striking detail: many newer housing complexes also did not withstand the quakes.
President Erdogan has promised that within a year as many houses will be built as there are now in ruins. Is that feasible? According to Thea Hilhorst, professor of humanitarian aid and reconstruction, it will take at least ten years before the disaster area is back to normal. Hilhorst indicated on NPO Radio 1 that this is about bad governance. That it is a disaster, not necessarily a natural disaster: the buildings in the affected area were simply made of bad material.
An important factor for earthquake-resistant construction, according to earth scientist Meric Kessaf, is the type of soil on which the building is built. In the affected area of Antakya, for example, you have to deal with loose soil and solid soil. When the water level is high, loose soil reacts more violently to an earthquake than solid soil. When we were in Kahramanmaras, this was confirmed to us: the houses on the rocks were still intact, while in the city center all the buildings had been razed to the ground. People there also indicated that the land is actually intended for agriculture.
For example, there are more things that you have to take into account if you want to build in an earthquake-prone area. But so far, the Turkish construction industry has largely balked at this. Each area must be checked and tested with which ground conditions and other earthquake-sensitive elements you are dealing with. Have Japanese experts already come to advise Turkey on earthquake-resistant construction?
Since the recent quakes, contractors have been arrested in Turkey who have ‘killed’ people through their corruption, who have been wrongly granted permits by the government. But isn’t it the entire chain that needs to be addressed?
The Turks are heartbroken. Erdogan has promised to deliver 200,000 homes for the victims. Are they all earthquake resistant? Elections are also coming up. See first, then believe.