We have experienced half a dozen earthquakes since we have been here but this was by far the strongest: a six on the Richter scale. We were having a late lunch in a local restaurant and after the first few seconds it took for us to realize what was happening and to assess the stability of the shade we were under, we hurried out into the open. I was impressed to note that we had all carried our drinks to safety.
Settling down again after the event was difficult. The initial relief led to levity and some silly jokes and joshing, but then one of us pointed out that the experience we had been through and which we were now enjoying could have been the result of a devastating event unknown miles away in which many people had died and major damage was done.
Our mobile phones soon put our minds to rest to some degree and within a day or so we were relieved to learn that only minor damage to property had resulted and that casualties were few and injuries minor.
The effects at home
Frau and I returned home on that day to find not a plate, glass or teapot out of place but our telephone cut off. Fortunately, the computer and its attachment to Seattle or wherever was still intact. I logged on and was soon facing the mail of friends from as far away as Australia who had heard the news. After an hour or so reassuring them of our safety, I checked in on Facebook to see if more news was forthcoming from local friends.
I don’t like Facebook, mainly because I am hopeless at using it. I read all the stuff that comes up when I first log on, but that is about all. Quite what and where “my wall” is is a mystery to me, as is something called a “timeline.” Anyway, predictably, the site was stuffed full of people’s earthquake experiences complete with embellishments and exaggeration. The dust that had risen from a nearby mountain due to rockfalls and landslides had become smoke suggesting volcanic activity and someone’s cat had forecast the event by mewling that very morning. Interestingly, our two dogs slept through the quake and the aftershocks with nary a twitch. I tired of reading Facebook after the 10th joke from women about how “the earth moved …” for them “… lol :-).”
I apologize for picking on the fair sex this week, but it was a lady friend of ours who some years ago gave us the standing joke “earthquake weather” (dark and foreboding) and it was a lady who wrote in our local paper that the full moon can cause earthquakes. For the record, I note that the weather before and after last week’s event was bright and sunny and the moon a beautiful Turkish crescent. It doesn’t help my argument that earthquakes have nothing to do with the weather when the TV stations allocate earthquake news to the weather bimbos (of both sexes).
I can guarantee that after the next serious earthquake, if damage is extensive and lives are lost, the government will announce that an inquiry will be held. I can save them the trouble by informing them now that the standard of building construction in Turkey is appalling. After the last deadly quake, I heard a government official on the TV announce that Turkey has one of the best building codes in the world. Now I am in no position to contradict that, but I can say that the best codes are of no use whatsoever if they are not enforced, and that certainly seems to be the case.
I said that there was little damage in our nearest big town. While that is true, we did see yesterday that a four-storey block of apartments with restaurant below, which has been leaning about six inches out of plumb for years, is now leaning 12 inches out of plumb. It is in the middle of a block of about 10 similar buildings, so is being held up by four or five of its better founded neighbors. Perhaps the others are also leaning a mite out of plumb now? Who knows, I don’t now have the instruments to measure that, but logic suggests it is probably so. Let us suppose that 16 apartments might be at risk if a further quake comes. Thirty-two or more lives? Surely, the local authority has been around to inspect the buildings? Surely, the inhabitants have been warned of the danger?
Do you detect skepticism? Only 50 meters behind that row of apartment blocks is a two-storey block that leans back at an angle of about four degrees; 100 meters from that is a hotel that appears to be perfectly plumb but which has sunk some 40 centimeters into the ground since it was built. I am assuming that the plans for all these structures were approved by the local authorities and are now deemed safe.
Planning for the future
Here is a challenge to anyone who lives in a house or apartment block built in the last 10 years and sited within 50 kilometers of the earthquake of June 11. Ask the building’s architect for the soils report and the foundation calculations for the building. The soils report should have been the result of either a test pit or a borehole from which samples were taken at intervals and analyzed by either a soils engineer or a qualified civil engineer.
Would anyone like further challenges? [No prizes though.] Next time you see a team pouring concrete, try to spot the vibrating poker with which they should be compacting the stuff. Try to spot the young technician taking cubes for testing in the laboratory. If you live nearby, observe that the concrete is kept wet for 28 days after pouring; the curing period. Spot the building inspector.
At the time of the last big earthquake here, approximately half of the town was built on reclaimed land and 1 percent of the population was killed; since then the population has grown more than twentyfold and an estimated 75 percent of the housing is built on reclaimed marshland and is twice the height of the earlier houses. We know of only half a dozen buildings supported on piles, none of which are residential. Methinks that the authorities might make a good start on writing the report of the inquiry well before the forthcoming disaster. This time we were lucky, but we shouldn’t just rely on luck.