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Substandard materials, lack of inspections increased destruction wrought by Turkey earthquakes: report

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The Turkish Chamber of Civil Engineers (İMO) has said that poor soil conditions, the use of substandard materials and the lack of effective inspections were among the main reasons last week’s major earthquakes caused so much destruction in southeastern Turkey, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Tuesday.

The chamber, affiliated with the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB), on Tuesday released a preliminary report on a 7.8-magnitude quake that struck near the city of Gaziantep as people slept on Feb. 6.

The earthquake, which claimed the lives of 31,643 people and injured over 80,000 across 10 southeastern provinces hit hardest by the disaster according to the latest official figures, was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that struck the region later the same day.

According to the report many buildings that were built after 2000 collapsed or were heavily damaged in the major quakes because they were constructed on farmland, in soil with the potential of liquefaction or in areas with the bedrock buried deep below the surface.

The chamber listed other causes of the massive destruction as the absence of infill walling on the ground floors of buildings and the lack of efficient inspections, thus preventing the detection of structures that aren’t earthquake-resistant.

The chamber pointed out in its conclusion that laws which would ensure the proper functioning of all stages of building construction and make “merit and competence” a part of it should be enacted as soon as possible.

“With this earthquake, all the issues that were forgotten, ignored, neglected or not accepted despite [scientific proof] should be remembered and addressed [in a way that] eliminates legal deficiencies,” the İMO said, adding that Law No. 3458 on Engineering and Architecture should be immediately amended for “competent engineering.”

“The material and moral damage caused by the earthquakes [in Turkey] in the last 30 years are almost identical,” the chamber also said, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s poor response to the last week’s earthquakes.

It was noted in the report that search and rescue efforts were carried out in very limited areas, with insufficient staff and equipment since the authorities were “too late” to organize them and mobilize civilians such as mine workers that could contribute to them.

“A serious lack of coordination in disaster management was observed in all earthquake zones. Search and rescue teams couldn’t be directed correctly and aid couldn’t be delivered [in time]. There has been a humanitarian crisis in the provision of shelter and food,” the chamber said.

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