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Turkish building collapses blamed on poor design code enforcement

Poor implementation and enforcement of seismic building codes were blamed this week for the collapse of numerous structures following last week’s earthquake in eastern Turkey.

Some 582 people are now confirmed dead following last Sunday’s major 7.2 magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey. The city of Van — less than 20km from the epicentre — with a population of 360,000 and the smaller town of Ercis — about 60km away — were worst hit.

Engineers said poor quality materials and workmanship were most likely to blame for the building collapses, rather than inadequate Turkish seismic design codes.

“There were a lot of cases of a building totally collapsed but the one next to it standing intact,” said Bogazici University Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute professor Erdal Safak. “As we see again and again, the buildings with bad quality of concrete, inadequate reinforcement, inadequate detailing at beam-column connections and soft first stories will be damaged.”

Safak said Turkey’s seismic design codes do address all these issues, but the problem is the implementation and the enforcement of those codes.

However, Bogazici University Kandilli Observatory Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute professor Eser Cakti said first impressions indicated that the damage appeared to be less than that from similar earthquakes of this size. The last major earthquake to strike Turkey was in Izmit in 1999 with a 7.2 magnitude.

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