Turkey and Syria earthquakes: Housing worst hit but infrastructure not immune

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Turkonfed report outlines gruelling cost of Turkey’s earthquakes on housing, transport, electricity and other infrastructure.

Following the terrible earthquakes across Turkey and Syria, the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (Turkonfed) has estimated that housing loss in Turkey alone represents $70bn of damage, though some infrastructure has proven relatively resilient.  

While Turkey and Syria mourn the loss of over 40,000 people and questions are being raised about how so many buildings were so vulnerable, the industry has started analysing the scale of reconstruction to come, even while providing emergency aid at the same time.

Turkonfed members have organised 241 trucks of food and clothing materials, 391 shelter containers, more than 1,000 tents, four soup kitchens, three mobile kitchens, 100 portable toilets and bathrooms, more than 15 thousand beds, 48 generators, nearly 1,000 heaters and more than 30,000 blankets.  

Süleyman Sönmez, president of Turkonfed, explained: “As Turkonfed, which has a member even in the most remote corner of Türkiye, we have started working to ensure coordination from the first moment of the earthquake disaster. In this context, we cooperate with more than 60,000 members from 30 federations and 300 associations.”

Sönmez also said: “We know very well that we can overcome the trauma of this disaster by enacting our strength and solution abilities.” In that light, Turkonfed have used their analytical capacity to examine past earthquake outcomes – alongside details emerging from the provinces affected – to estimate the scale of structural loss and reconstruction likely to be needed.”

Housing

In their dedicated report, Turkonfed has extrapolated from the impact of past earthquakes on different buildings of different ages, and typical densities in the affected regions, that this disaster will likely leave more than one million properties damaged, including the so far 264,000 apartments destroyed. That extent of damage represents around one in three homes in the affected region – which is home to over 11 million people.

Examining the financial impact of losing so many homes, and having to repair so many others, the report examines equivalent experiences after past earthquakes and arrives at an estimated cost of $70bn before other impacts on the local area are considered, such as infrastructure damage or mass displacement of people to other regions.

Transport infrastructure

Transport access to the region has been vital to securing emergency supplies and in the early days after the earthquakes, it had been reported by the General Directorate of Highways that no major routes were closed to traffic – representing something of a success for emergency access.

At the same time, however, problems affected access to the Hatay Airport and Hatay-Reyhanlı road. The report also emphasised that the roads of many districts and villages were badly affected and left unsuitable for continuous transportation. This included a number of collapses, especially on the Gaziantep, Hatay, GaziantepOsmaniye and Adıyaman-Çelikhan roads.

Although the report recognises that rapid repair work therefore became an initial priority to secure local access routes, eventually the underlying damage will require long-term rebuilding work.

Energy

According to Turkonfed, electricity supplies were disrupted and transformers destroyed in several parts of the affected region, and in the worst hit areas the electricity distribution grid was damaged to the point of extinction.

Recommissioning of transformer and grid facilities will therefore have to take place over the long term, although main energy transmission facilities and lines remained operational or quickly resumed work, and portable generators have been sent to the region.

Natural gas pipelines suffered a number of explosions. Gas flow to Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmara was quickly cut off by operators. The government announced breakdowns and ruptures in the main transmission lines and although these were quickly repaired, the report notes that aftershocks caused further damage, leading to further repairs before flow was properly restored.

Oil flow was also stopped initially to allow the terminal to be inspected after the first earthquake. No leaks or damage were found and flow of crude oil resumed quickly.

Social infrastructure

According to the report, several hospitals across the region had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair. This included at least one hospital block still in use for intensive care patients following a negative earthquake report some years earlier. A large number of private hospitals are among those lost.

The Ministry of National Education announced that students studying in the ten provinces affected by the earthquake would be able to transfer to the provinces of their choice to continue their education. This may have reflected concerns about schools being destroyed or families moving to other regions to find homes. The number of schools destroyed is not yet known.

Although the telecommunication services did not stop completely in the provinces and districts affected, the report noted serious disruptions. At one point, there were 2,451 base stations out of service due to the earthquakes. In order to shore up communications quickly, 190 mobile stations were sent to the region.

International infrastructure association FIDIC issued a statement on both the short and long-term international response underway in Turkey and Syria, saying: “More than 2,600 personnel from 65 countries have already been sent to the disaster area to assist Turkish rescuers, with more likely to follow. Tragedies like this one bring out the best in our world and FIDIC is confident that global support will ensure that all those affected do not face the challenging days ahead alone.

“Much more assistance will be needed going forward as the region looks to recover from the disaster and we trust that the international engineering, construction, and infrastructure community, including the humanitarian relief organisations Red Crescent, RedR International and others, will also be ready to offer their assistance when the time comes.”