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Erdoğan’s claim that 98 pct of buildings destroyed in quake built before 1999 ‘unrealistic,’ experts say

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Experts have said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent claim that 98 percent of the buildings that collapsed as a result of last week’s powerful earthquakes were built before 1999 was “unrealistic” and not fact-based since it’s not possible to have determined the age of all buildings affected in such a short period of time, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Wednesday.

A 7.8-magnitude quake that struck near the city of Gaziantep as people slept on Feb. 6. claimed the lives of 35,418 people and injured over 105,000 across 10 southeastern provinces hit hardest by the disaster, according to the latest official figures. It was followed by thousands of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that struck the region later the same day.

The president said after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday at the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) in Ankara that 98 percent of the buildings destroyed as a result of the earthquakes were built before 1999, when a massive quake hit the Marmara region, killing more than 17,000 people and later resulting in new tougher, quake-resistant building codes.

Tezcan Karakuş Candan, head of the Chamber of Architects Ankara branch, told Artı Gerçek that the statistic Erdoğan shared with the public “doesn’t seem very likely” to be true and is “unrealistic” since it is basically a government estimate based on data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).

“Let’s say we put aside these question marks and accepted Erdoğan’s data as correct. … Whether [the collapsed structures were built] before or after 1999 doesn’t absolve the 22-year-old government of responsibility,” Candan added.

General Secretary of the Chamber of Civil Engineers Özer Akkuş also said it was “too early” to announce such a statistic, especially since not only the collapsed buildings but also the heavily damaged ones should also be taken into account when calculating such data.

Cemal Gökçe, former president of the Chamber of Civil Engineers and current chairman of the Earthquake Foundation, said he didn’t think Erdoğan’s statement about the buildings destroyed by the recent quakes was true.

“The collapse of buildings built before 1999 does not exonerate the current government. It was obvious that they would be destroyed [by an earthquake]. Why didn’t you update these buildings? Why didn’t you reinforce them?” Gökçe added, addressing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Meanwhile Meral Danış Beştaş, parliamentary group deputy chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on Tuesday posted a tweet regarding the age of the buildings in the provinces hit by the earthquake last week, citing data from the Habertürk news website, and said the figures show “the opposite” of what Erdoğan said.

“At least half of the buildings [destroyed by the quake] were built after 2001. I just reported the news on the air this morning. My source was more reliable [than the president],” journalist Mirgün Cabas tweeted.

Mesut Ersöz, a graphics designer at BBC, shared a video on Twitter that included satellite images showing that most of the buildings in the west of Kahramanmaraş, close to the quake’s epicenter, were built after 2004, two years after the AKP government came to power.



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