Geologists warn against immediate construction in earthquake zone as Turkish authorities open tenders for rebuilding

Despite warnings from geologists, Turkish authorities will start holding tenders on Wednesday for the construction of new housing in southern Turkey after massive earthquakes on February 6 turned most buildings into rubble. 

According to the Sabah daily, Turkish Minister of Environment and Urban Planning Murat Kurem said construction would start as soon as March and that they aimed to complete residential buildings in one year. However, geologists warn that if new buildings are not constructed according to earthquake building codes the country would witness similar tragedies in the next quake. 

Kurum said that in the first instance they would start with the construction of 250,000 buildings, which would be built according to earthquake regulations. “We will rebuild the 10 cities [affected by the earthquake] with the help of geologists and geophysicists,” he added. 

However, many geologists have expressed reservations about an immediate start to construction.

Geologist Naci Görür said on Twitter that the cities affected by the earthquakes should be carefully rebuilt. “We are recording frequent aftershocks in the area, and this is detrimental to any new construction because it will cause small cracks in fresh concrete,” he said. “The buildings will be weakened by these cracks even as they are being built.”

The Turkish Chambers of Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) repeated these warnings and said construction should not begin without a proper evaluation of the geodetic infrastructure and seismic activities of the area. In a press statement they explained that constructing buildings should not be the government’s priority and that proper assessment of seismic activities carried out with satellite technologies and seismographs was crucial to avoid other disasters. 

“The earth’s crust has shifted considerably in the areas hit by the earthquakes,” said the TMMOB. “This calls for a renewal of cadastral maps and an update of property borders before we can even think about rebuilding houses.”

In response Kurum warned the public against people who are “spreading discord.” 

Turkey’s most powerful earthquake in almost 100 years, which struck near the city of Gaziantep in the early hours of February 6, has so far claimed the lives of more than 41,000 people in Turkey in addition to injuring in excess of 100,000. Close to 220,000 disaster victims have been evacuated from the region to date, according to the latest official figures.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.

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