Death Toll Rises in Turkish Earthquake

May 2, 2003

More than 100 people have reportedly died and many more are missing following the earthquake that struck a mountainous region of Eastern Turkey early Thursday morning.

Rescue efforts were centered on a local school in the village of Celtiksuyu in Bingol province, where over 200 schoolchildren were trapped in the rubble of the collapsed building. Although many have been rescued, there are still at least 80 unaccounted for.

The collapse of a recently constructed building again raises questions about the Turkish government’s ability to enforce building code standards. Following the disastrous earthquake which struck near Izmit and Istanbul in northern Turkey on August 17, 1999, leaving over 17,000 dead, codes were strengthened, and insurance coverage was made mandatory.

However, according to reports from the BBC, adherence to code standards, especially in remote areas, has been questionable. “There is a very good building code and good seismic zoning maps in Turkey,” Dr. Russ Evans of the British Geological Survey told BBC News on line. “But there is concern that the system is not being followed.”

Damage from the quake, which registered 6.4 on the Richter scale, was being compared to damages from stronger quakes in California and Japan, where less damage occurred than in Turkey, apparently due to the more rigorous enforcement of building codes. The Turkish quake, however, was quite shallow, only 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep, which increased the violence at the surface, and caused more damage.

No figures have yet appeared concerning economic or insured losses, but a commentator on French television indicated that, although regulations had been put in force requiring that public buildings in Turkey be adequately insured, many did not have coverage.

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