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Behind the huge casualties of the Turkish-Syrian earthquake: poor buildings that were "pardoned

   Release date: 2023-02-20     Hits: 26    Comment: 0    
Note:   Li Jia and more than 100 Blue Sky rescue team members arrived at the first search and rescue site of the trip on Feb
   Li Jia and more than 100 Blue Sky rescue team members arrived at the first search and rescue site of the trip on February 10 local time,which is located in the southeast city of Malatiya,Türkiye,near the epicenter of the earthquake.There is almost no complete wall left in a 5-storey building.
  "As a rescue worker,I felt the irresistible power of the earthquake.A large number of houses collapsed in a'pie'manner,and the internal vertical load-bearing components were damaged.The floor structure was completely changed.The walls and floors were also broken,and the damage was very serious,"Li Jia told China News Weekly.
  Since the two strong earthquakes with magnitude above 7.5 occurred in the southeast of Türkiye on February 6,the number of casualties in the country and its neighboring Syria has continued to rise.By the noon of February 15,Beijing time,the number of victims had exceeded 41000.Among them,at least 35000 people have died in Türkiye.
  Behind the huge number of casualties,the problems of serious delay in rescue and a large number of illegal"killing buildings"are highlighted.On February 12,Türkiye's Vice President Fouad Octai said that the government had launched an investigation,focusing on buildings that were seriously damaged and caused casualties,and locked 131 suspects who might be responsible for the collapse of buildings in 10 affected provinces.
  Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said that the government had"encountered some problems"in clearing blocked roads and providing natural gas,which made rescue personnel and equipment unable to reach the rescue site in time.In response to some criticisms of the government's slow emergency response and inadequate preparation,he said,"Under such conditions,it is obvious that it is impossible to prepare for such a disaster."
  The situation in Syria is even worse.A few weeks before the earthquake,the United Nations Security Council had said that due to cholera and severe cold,Syria's humanitarian needs had reached the"highest level"since the beginning of the civil war in 2011.The earthquake aggravated the existing disasters:food shortage,lack of permanent residence,economic decline and medical resource shortage...and brought new and unpredictable suffering.
  "Our country has no capacity to cope with such a disaster,"said Hussein Makrouf,Syrian Minister of Local Administration and Environment,at a news conference after the earthquake.Margaret Harris,a WHO spokesman,pointed out that the earthquake had brought Syria a"crisis in crisis".
  On February 10,the Chinese rescue team successfully rescued two local residents trapped in the ruins for 108 hours in the earthquake stricken area of Antakia,Hatai Province,Türkiye.Figure/Visual China
  "We are late"
  On the morning of February 11 local time,Zhao Mo(not his real name)arrived in Adyaman Province in central and southern Türkiye with the Blue Sky Rescue Team,and it was almost difficult to see a complete building.Even the provincial government building was also full of cracks,"full of devastation,horrible".
  "More than 1000 buildings collapsed in Adelman,and tens of thousands of people still lost contact.In addition,the victims have not yet been transferred or resettled.They can only pitch tents,lay bunks,and light fires in the open space around the ruins.Before the rescue workers arrived,they did not have enough food,blankets,quilts and other warm goods."Zhao Mo told China News Weekly.
  He also said that in the past few days,the local rescue teams and residents in Adelman have carried out self-rescue,but the results are obviously not optimistic due to insufficient manpower,water and electricity interruption,and the shortage of heavy machinery and oil.After the rescue team from China arrived here,it quickly put into the rescue."The machine can't stop,and the personnel work in shifts.Many people work from the morning to 11:30 p.m.before returning to the camp to rest.".
  The General Chamber of Commerce of Chinese Enterprises in Türkiye immediately prepared for rescue,and temporarily appointed Shen Qinwei,the assistant president,as the head of the front base in Adana,the central and southern province.Shen Qinwei told China News Weekly that he was required to go to the disaster area at the fastest speed,but after a series of twists and turns such as the delay,cancellation,airport change and further delay of the plane due to heavy snow,he had to fly from Ala in eastern Türkiye to Ankara,and then transfer from Ankara.It was already the morning of February 9 when he arrived in Adana.
  Almost at the same time,Li Jia and his teammates arrived at the first search and rescue point in Malatia.Li Jia told China News Weekly that after more than eight hours'flight,he arrived in Istanbul from Wuhan Tianhe Airport,and then transferred to the Türkiye flight to Malawi."The situation at the rescue site is very complicated.We cooperated with Türkiye's emergency management bureau,the army,first aid and other local rescue forces,and the other side brought excavators and other large equipment."
  The excavator bit by bit lifted the large stones on the surface of the ruins,and the rescue workers moved the small pieces of rubble and bricks to gradually check the corners under the ruins,but they could not find the survivors at this search and rescue point.
  According to incomplete statistics,after the earthquake in Türkiye,China sent a number of rescue teams to the disaster area to participate in the rescue.In addition to the Chinese rescue team certified by the United Nations International Heavy Rescue Team,there are also social rescue forces such as Blue Sky Rescue System,Zhejiang Gongyang Rescue Team,Shenzhen Public Welfare Rescue Team,Green Boat Rescue Team,Dawn Rescue Team,One and One Rescue Team and others who have rushed to Türkiye to carry out rescue and post disaster assistance.
  At the same time,rescuers from all over the world have rushed to Türkiye to support the local rescue work.Türkiye's Disaster and Emergency Management Bureau said that on February 7,more than 2600 rescue workers from 65 countries and regions had been sent to the disaster area to assist Türkiye in earthquake relief.
  In fact,25000 search and rescue personnel sent by Türkiye's Disaster and Emergency Management Bureau to 10 affected provinces after the earthquake,as well as rescue teams from Greece,Azerbaijan and other nearby countries,arrived within the 72 hour golden rescue time.When the rescue teams from other places arrived in the earthquake area,most of them had missed the golden rescue time.
  "When we arrived at the scene,72 hours of golden rescue time had passed,and the probability of finding survivors at the scene was very low,"He Qingrong,the liaison officer of the International Department of the Blue Sky Rescue Team,told China News Weekly.
  For many international rescue teams,the situation they are facing is the serious damage to infrastructure,the lack of materials and the lack of various rescue tools.Due to flight restrictions,many rescue teams cannot carry enough professional equipment before departure,which also leads to a significant reduction in the efficiency of rescue.
  According to media reports,the Chinese rescue team sent by the Chinese Emergency Management Department was the first from China to arrive at the earthquake zone,and arrived at Türkiye's Adana Airport at 4:00 a.m.local time on February 8.
  Before the arrival of the Chinese rescue team,several employees of Zoomlion Türkiye Branch had carried out search and rescue in Khathai Province.Huang Yunbing,manager of Zoomlion Türkiye Branch,told China News Weekly that they coordinated five excavators,contacted five operators and one local employee,ran for more than 1000 kilometers in 16 hours,and arrived at the disaster site in Khathai Province,which is connected to Syria in the south,all the way from Istanbul through the snowstorm and road blockade.
  Huang Yunbing also urgently communicated with local managers,customers and other personnel in Türkiye,and coordinated more than 20 excavators,crawler cranes,truck cranes and others to come to the site.However,because water and electricity are still not restored,some demolition tools cannot be used,and rescue workers can only dig and plane with hammers,awls,shovels and other tools,which greatly reduces the efficiency.
  "On February 8,we cooperated with local rescuers to rescue a family of four people.They determined the general location by shouting and cleared the entrance of the ruins by excavator.Several people were not seriously injured,and they also expressed their gratitude to us."Huang Yunbing recalled that 370 people were buried in the 6-storey residential building after the earthquake,but because of the rapid rescue,more than 20 survivors were quickly rescued.
  Since the morning of February 9 local time in Türkiye,the hope for the survival of the buried people has become slim.Huang Yunbing clearly felt that there was not much echo under the ruins,the signs given by the life detector were also slowly decreasing,and the number of bodies cleaned up began to increase."More than 20 bodies were moved out on this day alone,and the body bags were constantly brought to the front."
  On February 10,the local residents of Malatia turned to the Blue Sky Rescue Team for help.His brother and his family were still buried in the nearby ruins.
  In the shattered kitchen,Li Jia saw the picture on the refrigerator door in the distance.One was a neat family photo,and the other was a smiling little girl playing in the outdoor sun.After only one glance,Li Jia cried,"You saw their past life under the ruins,but you could not find any sign of life.It's too painful.We are late."
  He Qingrong said,"The serious collapse and deformation of the houses on the site and the low temperature are a huge test for the survivors.once the body is injured and warm,it is difficult to survive without timely energy supply.Take off the gloves here for a while,and your fingers will soon be too cold".
  According to Türkiye's Anadolu News Agency,as of the noon of February 7,at least 285 aftershocks had occurred in the epicenter area of southeast Türkiye.Affected by major earthquakes and aftershocks,power and heating were interrupted in many places.At present,Türkiye is in winter.The cold rainy and snowy weather increases the difficulty of rescue and reduces the survival probability of the trapped people.
  Taking Gaziantep Province,Türkiye,where the epicenter was located,as an example,the average temperature in February was 5.1℃.On the day of the earthquake on February 6,it was raining in Gaziantep,with the temperature ranging from 1℃to 4℃.On February 7,the temperature fell to minus 6℃to 4℃,accompanied by thunderstorm weather.In Aleppo,Syria,which was also seriously affected by the earthquake,it also rained on the day of the earthquake,and the lowest temperature fell to minus 2℃on the 7th.Meteorologists said that the average temperature in the region was more than 5℃lower than that in the previous period.After the earthquake,the open and open area was the best place to live temporarily,but in the face of the serious shortage of resettlement sites,the continuous freezing rain made homeless people almost nowhere to live.
  On February 11,the China Association for Disaster Prevention issued the Proposal on Turning the Earthquake in Türkiye into Emergency Relief,calling on domestic life rescue teams that have not yet left to immediately cancel or terminate their action plans.It was mentioned that"the victims were trapped for five days in a relatively cold environment,and the probability of survival was very small.If they started from home now,they would arrive later."
  As of 14:00 on February 13,15 international search and rescue teams have announced their evacuation plans.According to the information released by the media and various teams,as of the 13th,the Chinese rescue team had rescued 6 survivors.According to statistics,a total of 19 survivors were rescued by Chinese civilian teams.
  Poor buildings that were"pardoned"
  On February 11,the weather in the eastern city of Malatya,Türkiye,had cleared up,but the ruins were still covered with snow.
  Houses can be seen everywhere in crushing collapse,and steel bars,cement,and rubble are mixed with various daily necessities,which can hardly be seen.In the video on the scene,besides the sound of equipment running and the conversation of rescue workers,it is difficult to hear other redundant sounds.
  Li Jia told China News Weekly that the local self-built houses lack the overall planning,and there are problems in their own structure.After the collapse of a four-and-a-half story building,exposed walls can be seen.The supporting columns are not enough.only the top ring is made of concrete,and the middle is made of inferior bricks,which has no seismic resistance."The roof of the first floor and the second floor collapsed into two pieces,and there was nothing in the middle."
  Because of the long history,the concrete strength of some buildings is obviously insufficient,and the hardness of hollow bricks is also insufficient."We have also conducted demolition training of old buildings in other places before,and it feels completely different,"Li Jia said.
  On February 12,the Minister of Environment of Türkiye Murat Traum reported that,according to the assessment of more than 170000 buildings,there were 24921 buildings collapsed or seriously damaged in the earthquake.
  It is reported that since the Izmir earthquake in Türkiye in 1999,Türkiye has improved the seismic standards of buildings.In 2007 and 2018,the government revised and updated the specifications,including improving the seismic design of high-rise buildings,base isolated buildings and pile foundations.However,builders often take illegal measures to use low-quality materials to reduce costs and"cheat"in the supervision process.
  On February 10,Türkiye's police arrested a construction contractor who was preparing to board a plane to fly abroad at Istanbul Airport.Türkiye's domestic media reported that his 12 story residential buildings in Antakia,Khathai Province,collapsed in the earthquake.
  After the earthquake,Türkiye's"building amnesty"regulations were once again questioned by"exchanging life for votes".This regulation is used to register and legalize previous illegal buildings.On May 18,2018,the government promulgated the"Zonal Amnesty"regulation entitled"Building Peace",which requires the legalization registration of unlicensed buildings or buildings that violate the permit and its annexes within the controllable range of disaster risk.The"construction amnesty"came into effect before the general election held on June 24,2018.
  President Erdogan of Türkiye said at the time,"Through regional peace,we have solved the problem of millions of homeless people from Kahlamamarash Province,Khathai Province and Gaziantep Province."After the strong earthquake,the head of the Türkiye Engineers and Architects Urban Planners Association in Istanbul said in an interview with the media that as many as 75000 buildings in the disaster affected areas of southern Türkiye had received"amnesty".
  In addition to the"amnesty regulations",Türkiye's"earthquake tax"has also been criticized.In 1999,the Izmit earthquake in Türkiye caused 17000 deaths.Since then,the"earthquake tax"has been introduced to prevent earthquake related damage.However,in reality,this tax is not used to improve the seismic performance of houses,but is used by the government to fund other construction projects,including transportation and agricultural projects.
  Türkiye born columnist Ethegur Seth wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly,criticizing the Erdogan government"more concerned about its own survival than the well-being of the people".He pointed out that the"new Türkiye"highlighted by Erdogan uses infrastructure projects to emphasize the break with the past.It seems that the more construction,the more powerful and modern it is."Construction companies and enterprises that have close relations with the Justice and Development Party(AKP,the ruling party of Türkiye)have obtained concessions,contracts and licenses to exchange rebates and votes."
  "Disaster areas in disaster areas"
  February 9,Halim District,Idlib Province,Syria.Some buildings have turned into hills of rubble,some of them are askew,some of them are rotten and only the structure is left.Gravel and steel bars engulfed the road like waves,and Syrian photographer Omar Abam could hardly walk.
  In front of a vertically collapsed building,the rescuers of the Syrian Civil Defense Organization shouted at the ruins,"Is anyone alive?"Because there were no search and rescue dogs and detection equipment,the rescue team could only tell whether there were any survivors by ear.Members of the civil defense organization signaled that the people around the ruins remained silent.In the disturbing silence,a boy's cry for help came from under the rubble.
  After nearly three hours,the rescue team finally found the boy.They carefully pulled the dusty gray child out of the ruins,and the crowd burst into cheers.But soon afterwards,they fell into grief again.The rescuers found the boy's family and all were killed.
  In Syria,the earthquake affected areas are divided into government controlled areas and enclaves near the border of Türkiye controlled by the opposition.As of 21:00 on February 14
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