Experts refute Erdogan’s statement that 98% of demolished buildings were made before 1999
President Erdogan made statements about the earthquakes in Maras at the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) Headquarters after the Ministerial Meeting. Erdogan said that 98 percent of the buildings destroyed in the earthquake were built before the 1999 earthquake. On the other hand, according to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK), 51 percent of the people living in the ten provinces that constitute the earthquake zone were residents of buildings built after 2001. What do experts make of this contradictory data? The Turkish Chamber of Civil Engineers (CCI) and The Ankara Chamber of Architects evaluated the issue with Arti Gercek.
ANKARA CHAMBER OF ARCHITECTS PRESIDENT CANDAN: IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO REACH SUCH DATA SO QUICKLY
Ankara Chamber of Architects President Tezcan Karakus Candan begins by saying that it is not possible to have such data at this point. Expressing that their committee has been investigating in the earthquake zone for a week now and that they have been gathering data to produce a report, Candan asks, "How was this data obtained so quickly?" To the question of whether 98 percent of the destroyed buildings could have been built before the 1999 earthquake, Candan gives a two-pronged answer, and emphasized that two wrongs do not make a right:
Candan answers the question as follows: “When we look at the data from TUIK, we see that 51 percent of the households in these provinces occupied houses built after 2001. The government is making predictions based on this data. First, this is unrealistic. In order to measure this, the destroyed buildings must be specified and important information such as their licensure and housing data must be shared.”
CANDAN: CLAIMING THAT THE BUILDINGS ARE FROM BEFORE 1999 DOES NOT ABSOLVE THE STATE OF RESPONSIBILTIY
Candan notes that even if Erdogan’s data were correct, the state would still not be absolved of responsibility, and continued her assessment as follows:
"Let's say we put aside these questions and contradictions and accept Erdogan's data as correct. This government came to power after the 1999 earthquake. They collected earthquake taxes and enacted laws. It was said that there is a stock of 18 million buildings and their inventory will be taken. It was said that these would be repaired and made safe. That was the government's responsibility. The government did not make good on this promise. Moreover, the government was unable to intervene in the region and to solve the problem even while it held power. This means you are not part of the problem. That 98 percent of the buildings date back to 1999 is improbable and rather unlikely. This is not realistic data, it's guesswork. How quickly was this conclusion reached? The government says that new buildings have also been demolished, but they constitute only 2 percent of the collapsed structures.
Let me insist on this. Whether the buildings are from before or after 1999 does not absolve the government of its responsibility, [we are talking about] a government which has had 22 years in power. You can't shift the blame to someone else. Two wrongs don't make a right."
CHAMBER OF CIVIL ENGINEERS GENEL SECRETARY AKKUS: I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY PULLED THE “98 PERCENT” FIGURE FROM
Another expert who evaluated Erdogan's statement to Arti Gercek is Ozer Akkus, Secretary General of the Chamber of Civil Engineers. Akkus said that all the findings should be revealed first and that it is too early for such data, as studies and analyses are still ongoing.
Akkus evaluated the situation as follows: “It is too early to present such data. We estimate that 7 thousand buildings have been destroyed, including some that have not been demolished yet but are heavily damaged. These heavily damaged buildings will also need to be torn down and rebuilt. This data should be looked at in terms of heavily damaged and destroyed buildings, and we do not know the exact numbers for this at the moment. We know that some of the demolished places in Maras and Antakya are old, but it is too early to present and announce such a percentage, as studies are still ongoing, because we need to include the number of heavily damaged buildings, not only the demolished ones, to calculate this percentage.”
FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE CCI GOKCE: THE ASSESMENT THAT 98% OF THE DEMOLISHED BUILDINGS ARE FROM BEFORE 1999 IS INCORRECT
Regarding the figures Erdogan presented, former CCI President and Earthquake Foundation Chairman Cemal Gokce, said that the CCI is conducting an investigation in the region and that the statement that 98 percent of the destroyed buildings were made before 1999 was not correct.
Attempting to convey the government’s culpability, Gokce said, “I do not think that the statement that 98 percent of the destroyed buildings were built before 1999 is correct. Many of the destroyed buildings we see are new. Buildings before 1999 were likely to collapse. We had been saying that. At this point, we had told [authorities] to either strengthen these buildings or demolish them. The collapse of buildings built before 1999 does not exculpate the current government. Where were you, why didn't you renovate these buildings; it was obvious that they would crumble why didn't you reinforce them? We've said this over and over. We said to take inventory of these buildings, strengthen what needs to be strengthened, demolish what needs to be demolished and rebuilt. Neither does the collapse of buildings built after 1999 exculpate the current government. In the end, many buildings have been destroyed and thousands of people have lost their lives. From top to bottom, the government is to blame for this.”
GOKCE: MONITORING COMPLIANCE WITH EARTHQUAKE REGULATIONS IS THE DUTY OF THOSE MANAGING THE STATE
As for the demolition of new buildings despite announcements that they were in compliance with earthquake regulations, former CCI President Gokce says that the responsibility still lies with the government and concludes his analysis as follows:
“Those who control the government's budget and administrative resources needed to have strengthened the pre-1999 buildings and ensure that those built after 1999 followed earthquake regulations. We see that the buildings that are declared to be regulation-compliant are used commercially to earn more money. Otherwise, if a building is built in accordance with earthquake regulations, there is no loss of life even if the building suffers damage. In the case where buildings are declared to be compliant with regulations for commercial purposes even though the opposite is true, the responsibility of auditing belongs to those governing the state.”