Quake-threatened Cities: Explosive Growth, Shoddy Construction Along Major Fault Lines Portend Disaster2 min read
New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin filed a story this week from Istanbul tracing the scientific analysis and sociological realities that are leading to predictions of disaster in fifteen world capitals that could dwarf the tragedy that is still unfolding in Haiti. The poster child is Istanbul, where the population has grown from 1 million to 10 million in the past 50 years and where a billionaire real estate developer confessed to Revkin that most structures have been built with substandard materials, saying “If an earthquake occurs in Istanbul, not even the army will be able to get in.”
Seismologists have mapped the regions where there is a one in ten chance of a quake in the next 40 years. Many world capitals are encompassed by serious threats:
Catastrophic: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Almaty, Kazakhstan and Katmandu, Nepal
Destructive: Istanbul, Turkey; Tehran, Iran; Jakarta, Indonesia; Quito, Ecuador; Guatemala City, Guatemala and San Salvador, El Salvador
Very Strong: Bangkok, Thailand; Delhi, India; Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan; Cairo, Egypt and La Paz, Bolivia
Engineering and building structures to withstand the enormous energy unleashed along fault lines is beyond the means of any but the most affluent societies. University of Colorado seismologist Roger Bilham estimates that an engineer is involved in only 3% of the construction that is currently going on around the world. With Turkey spending $800 million dollars simply to reinforce hundreds of schools, hospitals and other public buildings in Istanbul, imagine the price tag of making a whole city safe.
Humbling, daunting, scary and a problem in need of a solution to say the least.