Can Turkey build back its cities better after the latest earthquakes?


The death toll from the latest humanitarian disaster that struck Turkey and neighboring Syria on February 6 currently stands at more than 50,000 – with over 44,000 in Turkey alone. The figure is expected to rise further as over 160,000 structures in Turkey have collapsed or been severely damaged and scores of people are still unaccounted for.

Amid all the chaos, public anger has now started building up over allegations of poorly enforced building codes. Almost three weeks on from the catastrophic earthquakes, the frantic search for survivors beneath the debris of collapsed buildings has now been replaced by the search for a number of answers, including

  1. Who’s responsible for poorly enforced building codes?
  2. Which cities might suffer a similar level of devastation when the next quake hits?
  3. How the horrifying death toll from the recent disaster can be avoided in the future?

The city of Istanbul raises particular concerns. Home to over 16 million people, the city faced a powerful tremor back in 1999, when over 17,000 people were killed in the country and massive corruption in the construction sector was exposed.

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In the days since the earthquakes, Turkish authorities and construction firms have been subjected to tremendous accusations over their inability to learn from past mistakes. Numerous people have been arrested since February 6, accused of violating building regulations. However, a strong public outcry has been triggered by the lack of legal action against the officials who approved these buildings.

The enormous loss could have been avoided had authorities listened, instead of accusing scientists, industry professionals, and disaster mitigation scholars of fear-mongering, said Taner Yuzgec, president of the Chamber of Construction Engineers, adding “rebuilding the old structures in areas with high seismic risks would be a repeat of the disaster.”



Sulaiman keeps an important eye on domestic and international politics while he has mastered history.

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