Buildings damaged in Turkey’s 1999 earthquake still inhabited - expert

Hundreds of damaged buildings require demolition and people continue to live in tens of severely damaged buildings in Turkey’s northwestern Izmit province, which was rocked by one of the country’s deadliest earthquakes in 1999, Chamber of Civil Engineers’ local chapter chairman Kahraman Bulut said.

A 7.4-magnitude earthquake on August 17, 1999 all but wiped Izmit’s Gölcük district off the map, killing more than 18,000 people in Izmit, neighbouring Bolu and Bursa provinces and Turkey’s financial hub Istanbul. The disaster left another 54,000 people injured.

Some of the buildings still standing in central Izmit have leaned over by a full metre in places, according to Turkish daily BirGün.

“We must focus on the buildings now, not the fault line itself,” Bulut was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Damaged buildings in the province must be torn down to be replaced with earthquake-proof new development, Bulut said, as they could collapse at any minute.

Some 5,000 buildings in the province were included in the scope of urban transformation laws, and 4,500 of them have been demolished, Bulut said, leaving 500 buildings still standing and 29 severely damaged buildings still inhabited.

The damaged buildings can come down on their own, without an earthquake triggering the collapse, Bulut added. “Like the building that came down in Kartal,” Bulut said, referring to the sudden collapse of an eight-storey building in Istanbul in February 2019 that killed 21 people.

The 1999 earthquake itself killed only one person, Bulut said, in reference to a man who fell into the gaping fault line, and the rest were killed by buildings.