Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research logo google logo
navigation bar

The Marmara, Turkey Earthquake of August  17, 1999: Reconnaissance Report

Show all
Hide all
Foreword
Preface

Introduction

By Charles Scawthorn
EQE International, Inc.

The August 17, 1999 Mw 7.4 Marmara earthquake is a devastating catastrophe and great human tragedy for the Turkish people. Approximately 17,000 fatalities and 44,000 injuries occurred, with an estimated 20,000 collapsed buildings displacing more than 250,000 people, making it one of the worst natural disasters in recent decades.

The affected region around Izmit Bay is heavily industrialized and accounts for perhaps 10% of Turkey’s GDP. Combined with other economic problems, the earthquake is expected to be a severe burden on the national economy, reducing national GNP by 0.6~1.0 % (World Bank, 1999).

The earthquake should have come as no surprise, since the long history of earthquakes is well-known (Ambraseys and Finkel, 1995), Table 1-1. Additional evidence for this event’s potential was the clear pattern of sequential segmented rupturing of the North Anatolian Fault Zone (NAFZ) as pointed out by Toksöz et al. in 1979 and Stein et al. in 1997, (discussed by Papageorgiou in Section 2).

The approximately 125 km of fault rupture on the North Anatolian Fault Zone is clearly analogous to situations in other parts of the world, most notably with the San Andreas fault in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The strong ground shaking due to this fault rupture, combined with soft soils around the perimeter of Izmit Bay and other areas (e.g., Adapazari), resulted in significant geotechnical effects and permanent ground deformations (discussed by Mitchell and Holzer in Section 3). These geotechnical effects were consistent with those associated with other recent major earthquakes, and resulted in streets and buildings on the bayshore being submerged 1~2 meters in this event, and Adapazari’s water distribution system being virtually destroyed.

However, the most dramatic damage and greatest contributor to the disaster was the widespread collapse of numerous multi-story reinforced concrete apartment blocks. Almost the only building type in the region is non-ductile reinforced concrete frames with hollow clay tile infill which, combined with soft stories, results in a ‘pancake’ type of collapse (discussed by Bruneau in Section 4). Requirements for proper earthquake-resistive construction exist in the Turkish building code, which is a very modern code. Why weren’t these requirements adhered to? One important factor has been the rapid development of Turkey in general, and particularly the Marmara region. From 1990 to 1997 for example, the province of Kocaeli’s population grew 26%. Rapid development of the Marmara region overwhelmed local government’s ability to monitor construction, and led to unregulated building, resulting in inadequate lateral force systems in buildings.

This lesson is further emphasized by the performance of structures designed and constructed by more centralized organizations with access to modern engineering, such as the transportation systems (discussed by Mander in Section 5), industrial facilities (discussed by Johnson in Section 6) and lifelines (Section 7). In these cases, relatively little damage occurred, and the major motorways, water treatment and transmission systems, gas systems, and national power grid, were all functional within hours of the earthquake. Industrial facility performance was more mixed, with some dramatic damage, such as at the Tüpras refinery (site of a major fire), but many facilities performed very well.

The human dimensions of the August 17 earthquake continued for many days, as Turks and rescuers from around the world struggled to find and save those trapped in the literally thousands of collapsed buildings. This task, which re-played similar efforts seen in Mexico City in 1985, Armenia in 1988 and elsewhere, is simply overwhelming. As Mitchell discusses in Section 8, the organization and technology does not currently exist to perform this task with any real effectiveness, so that prevention of the problem, via effective retrofitting, is the solution. The cost of disasters is further increased by the resources that must be devoted to tent cities and more durable temporary housing, debris removal and other necessary tasks, as discussed by Webb in Section 9. Both sections 8 and 9 also offer excellent insights into the social and political ramifications of such a trauma to the social fabric.

Very interesting in this earthquake was the application of new technologies for rapidly assessing and reacting to the disaster, in near ‘real-time.’ Remote sensing, GPS, GIS and emergency decision support systems offer the promise of efficiently employing available resources in a timely manner, thus in the future, potentially saving those who are currently lost. Eguchi and co-workers in the final chapter discuss current efforts at applying and understanding these technologies, which are an extremely promising area for further research.

In a sense, the August 17 Marmara earthquake was a ‘narrow-banded’ event. That is, considering the entire spectrum of the built environment, the damage resulting from the event, while substantial, was generally within the resources of Turkey to manage and even tolerate, with one exception. The exception was the dismal performance of the reinforced concrete frames, virtually ubiquitous in the region. The collapse of thousands of these buildings transformed this earthquake from a damaging event to a catastrophe. Within the spectrum of the built environment, only this aspect was a ‘spike.’ Design and construction of reinforced concrete frames to withstand strong earthquake motions is possible, and the principles are well understood by Turkish engineers. Unfortunately, the rapid development of the region overtaxed the ability of the society to assure that these principles were followed. The result was inadequate buildings, when there need not have been, and a tragic catastrophe. The ultimate lesson therefore is that building and development is simply not a physical process - governmental institutions and social processes must develop in parallel, to keep up with the physical demands and assure minimum acceptable standards of construction and public safety. The alternative is seen in Figure 1-1, thousands forced to stand by, while victims die in the rubble.

 

Contents

Acknowledgments

This report and the reconnaissance effort which made it possible are a collaborative effort between many investigators and institutions. Sponsorship of these activities was provided primarily by the Earthquake Engineering Research Centers Program of the National Science Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration through the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER). This support is gratefully acknowledged. Several of the authors were also members of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s (EERI) reconnaissance team, and/or the Geotechnical Reconnaissance team supported by the National Science Foundation.

The authors wish to collectively acknowledge the support and cooperation of the Turkish people who so willingly provided assistance during a very traumatic time. Many had the kindness and willingness to freely share information and provide access to damaged facilities.

The authors also wish to acknowledge the generous assistance of many organizations, agencies and individuals who made their visit possible and whose employees gave freely of their time and expertise. Some of these organizations and individuals are listed below and others are identified in the body of the report. They include:

• Professor Ayse Akalin, Department of Sociology, Bogaziçi University
• Mr. Rafael Alaluf, YESA, Istanbul
• Mr. Ismail Baris, Mayor of Gölcük
• Dr. Nesrin Basöz, K2 Technologies
• Professor Faruk Birtek, Department of Sociology, Bogaziçi University
• Mr. Serkan Bozkurt, IMAGINS
• Dr. H.T. Durgunoglu, Zetas Earth Technology Corporation, Istanbul
• Professor Mustafa Erdik, Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute
• Mr. Fakir Erdogan, Turkish Electricity Generation-Transmission Corporation
• Dr. Semih Ergintav, TÜBITAK
• Dr. Polat Gülkan, Middle East Technical University
• Mr. Gürsel Hanci, Safak Güvenlik
• Mr. Marin Jordanov, EQE International, Sofia, Bulgaria
• Professor Elif Kale, Department of Sociology, Bogaziçi University
• T. Karadayilar, Zetas Earth Technology Corporation, Istanbul
• C. Emren Öge, Zetas Earth Technology Corporation, Istanbul
• Mr. Atilla Özdikmen, Alter Uluslararasi
• Professor Nazmiye Özgüç, University of Istanbul
• Mr. Baris Öztek, Birikim DA
• Mr. Mike Price, Operations Manager, Izmit Water Project
• Mr. Larry Roeder, U.S. State Department
• Dr. Betlem Rosich, ESA/ESRIN
• Mr. Turgay Türker, Türker Engineering
• Mr. Kadri Vezirolu, Vice Mayor of the City of Izmit
• Dr. M. Namik Yalçin, TÜBITAK
• Dr. Hülya Yildirim, TÜBITAK

Ordering Information

You can proceed directly from this page into the ordering section of our online publications catalog. To do so, select the item(s) in which you are interested, then click "Order Publications" button below. Your order will be taken online and the item(s) shipped to you. (To search our other publications, you can proceed directly to our catalog.)

  I would like to order The Marmara, Turkey Earthquake of August  17, 1999: Reconnaissance Report. Copies are$35.00 each.

 

For Further Information:


University at Buffalo, State University of New York
107 Red Jacket Quadrangle
Buffalo, New York, USA 14261
phone: 716-645-3395
fax: 716-645-3399

 


  Contact Us  |  Acknowledgements   |  Disclaimer  |  Copyright© 2007 by the Research Foundation of the State of New York. All rights reserved.