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Panic in Istanbul as quakes head east


THE ISTANBUL offices of British consultants Owen Williams and Ove Arup have been inundated with requests for urgent structural assessments of the city's buildings, following last month's Turkish earthquake.

The quake which hit Turkey two weeks ago had its epicentre 100km east of Istanbul. It is the latest in a sequence of quakes that have slowly moved eastward along the North Anatolian Fault. Many believe the next big quake could centre on Istanbul, hence the panic among building owners and insurers.

Much of the devastation caused by the Izmit quake stemmed from poor quality housing construction.

Many of Istanbul's 10M residents live in exactly the same type of structure. These buildings are also thought to have suffered superficial damage.

A Turkish Government survey conducted last year estimated a major earthquake could affect up to 75% of the city's housing stock, endangering 70,000.

Head of Arup Seismic Engineering Ted Peipenbrock, who has just returned from Turkey, told NCE the firm was carrying out some small-scale work for free for families concerned about the structural integrity of their homes.

It is also working on a commercial basis for owners and insurers. Once assessed all buildings are tagged with green, red or yellow tickets according to their condition.

Engineers from Owen Williams have also been called out to examine buildings for seismic stability. The consultant already has a contract to assess the condition of 650 hospital buildings for the Turkish Government and has been carrying out retro reinforcing work on structures that do not meet seismic requirements.

Estimates of the direct costs of resulting last month's earthquake including reconstruction of housing and transport links range from £6bn to £16bn. Indirect costs due to interruption to business could reach ten times that figure.

Most of the country's engineered infrastructure has remained relatively intact. All Turkey's dams were reported to have survived, although there is a lot of damage to water and sewer pipelines.

Many power lines have come down and some industrial facilities have suffered.

The Turkish Government last week passed an emergency law giving it powers to commission 'the founding, building, tendering and contracting of new settlement areas' in the wake of natural disasters without having to seek parliamentary permission.

The Government is now seeking US help to raise the finance needed for reconstruction work.

Richard Thompson

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