On today’s show we are taking a closer look at the impact of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. We’ve all seen the images of collapsed buildings, of piles of rubble. The impact on those whose lives were lost and those whose lives were disrupted is staggering.

We’re now hearing reports of developers being arrested. Let’s be clear, this was a powerful earthquake. A 7.8 magnitude quake is 10x more powerful than the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1989. I remember that quake very well. 63 people died in that quake, many related to the collapse of the Bay Bridge.

In Turkey and Syria, the death toll continues to rise and is expected to top the 47,000 already estimated to have died.

The investigations will take months to complete. Some collapsed buildings that are missing structural elements will be easier to investigate.

But the problems appear to be more systemic.

In 2007, the government passed new regulations aimed at cleaning up the construction sector, seeking to make new buildings earthquake-proof and shore up the old ones.

Planning rules have been further tightened since, most recently in 2018, requiring more steel columns and beams to absorb the impact of earthquakes.

But during the same year, the government issued an amnesty for existing buildings that had broken the rules – for a fee.

More than 10 million people applied, netting the state more than $3 billion in registration fees.

More than half of Turkey’s 13 million buildings contravene regulations, according to official data, making amnesties popular among property owners, as well as a lucrative source of government revenue.

Another amnesty was proposed last year and was making its way through parliament, despite criticism, even before the latest quake.

At the end of the day, the laws of physics don’t care whether you had paid a fee to the government to gain an exemption from structural violations. The building will either stand or fall.

Turkey is one of the most active seismic zones in the world and has a history of severe earthquakes. Buildings need to be designed to handle these severe events.


Host: Victor Menasce

email: podcast@victorjm.com