Building collapse highlight risks in quake-prone Turkey

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 26, 2019 - Duration: 02:25s

Building collapse highlight risks in quake-prone Turkey

A Turkish government amnesty on unregistered construction work is endangering lives, engineers and architects warned after an illegally extended residential building collapsed in Istanbul and killed 21 people.

Emily Wither reports.

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Building collapse highlight risks in quake-prone Turkey

The dramatic moment an eight-story building collapsed in Turkey's largest city Istanbul.

Earlier this month 21 people lost their lives.

This disaster has reignited concerns about construction safety in a country prone to deadly earthquakes.

And experts warn that a revenue boosting government amnesty on unregistered construction work is putting lives at risk.

With one saying it'd turn Istanbul in to a graveyard.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, EMILY WITHER, SAYING: "This is as close as police will allow us to the site of that collapsed eight-story building, weeks since the disaster and they are still clearing away the rubble.

It's since emerged that the top three floors had been built illegally.

The owners of the apartment had also applied to benefit from the amnesty on unlicensed properties." The amnesty on unlicensed buildings means owners of such properties make payments to the state to register them, regardless of their safety.

It's generated billions of dollars for the government.

During their 16 years in power President Tayyip Erdogan's government has been all about build, build, build.

Sector officials argue that financial considerations have been prioritized at the expense of safety.

(SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) CHAIRMAN OF THE CHAMBER OF CIVIL ENGINEERS, CEMAL GOKCE, SAYING: "Whether it is completely unlicensed, or has more floors than the original plan, they said they will give an amnesty to all buildings.

I said: 'Oh God'.

If you look at the statements I made on the day, I said it will mean transforming our cities, notably Istanbul, into graveyards and result in coffins emerging from our homes." Official data says more than half of Turkey's building stock contravenes housing regulations, meaning 13 million buildings are at risk.

Istanbul a city of 15 million people is especially vulnerable; a 7-magnitude earthquake is expected within 30 years.

Erdogan himself said in a recent interview he was scared by the prospect but he's blaming the Istanbul building collapse on illegal construction.

The government says the amnesty was needed to remove disagreements between the state and citizens.

Istanbul's Chamber of Architects say they had warned the government that people will pay for it with their lives.

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