Quake experts enlighten GW about Turkey disaster

The GW Institute for Crisis Disaster and Risk Management hosted a technical briefing Thursday on last month’s earthquake in Turkey.

In a series of lectures in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute reconnaissance team, a group of experts from various universities and corporations, discussed aspects of the Izmit earthquake, which caused more than 14,000 deaths and left more than 500,000 homeless in August.

GW graduate students attended the briefing to learn about the destructive nature of earthquakes and earthquake preparation efforts around the world. Local media and news agencies from Taiwan and Turkey were also present for the briefing.

The EERI team discussed a wide range of topics related to earthquake disaster, including societal, geological and structural impacts, as well as international relief efforts.

Baylor University’s William Mitchell, who presented on public policy and societal impacts, said the Izmit earthquake was “totally different from any past experiences” because of its large size and unique location in a metropolitan area.

Mitchell said a team of local disaster relief specialists performed well and survivor relief assistance was implemented quickly. However, resources were poorly publicized, and very few survivors received valuable assistance even though it was ready, Mitchell said.

Human rescue response to the earthquake was relatively quick but was insufficient in numbers, and emergency equipment came slowly, Mitchell said.

Bert Swan of Geomatrix Consultants discussed the geological considerations for seismic disasters in Turkey and the importance of good preparation in the future. Swan said earthquakes normally move in order along a fault. Therefore, he said Istanbul will most likely be struck next and should prepare better than Izmit did for the Aug. 17 disaster.

T. Leslie Youd and Mark Aschheim, from Brigham Young University and the University of Illinois, discussed the structural integrity of Turkish buildings on fault lines and the ability of buildings to withstand vibrations.

Both professors said Turkish officials have not tested most buildings and structures in areas endangered by earthquakes.

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