One Year After Kahramanmaraş Earthquakes

The Panel “One Year After Kahramanmaraş Earthquakes” Took Place

The “One Year After Kahramanmaraş Earthquakes” panel by Atılım University School of Engineering hosted a scientific discussion involving the many aspects of the catastrophic earthquake that hit, and devastated Türkiye last year.

With the event taking place at Kemal Zaim Conference Hall on February 8-9, 2024, among the participants were the pioneering scientists of Türkiye, and primarily, the valuable academicians of our Department of Civil Engineering, having conducted studies at Ground Zero on the day of the earthquakes.

During the inauguration speeches, President Prof. Dr. Serkan Eryılmaz stated: “We have lost some of our students and graduates. My condolences for everyone our country has lost in the earthquakes; I hope their relatives find peace, and I wish a swift recovery to everyone currently in recovery. Since the year 1900, Türkiye has experienced over 20 earthquakes of at least 7 in magnitude. What does that tell you? From a geographical standpoint, Türkiye has a strong earthquake generation potential, and we have to learn to live with earthquakes. And learning to live with them is only possible if we take measures, develop, and create through science. There are three key elements at the core of designing, implementing, manufacturing the structure of any system. These are quality, reliability, and safety. One might think that they are close in meaning, but in reality, they are entirely different concepts. We need to structure systems, or construct buildings, keeping these three elements of quality, reliability, and safety in mind, as much as we can. And that is only possible through science.”

The Dean of Atılım University School of Engineering as the host stated “The earthquakes of February 6, 2023, have been the ones to have claimed the most lives, caused the most catastrophic aftermath, affected the largest area, and caused the most economic losses in Türkiye in the last century,” and added: “We need to face the reality of the earthquake. We need to establish new ways of life based on science. Only by minding the warnings by scientists, improving on our infrastructure, and keeping our action plans against force-majeure will we be able to soften the catastrophic blows of earthquakes. Today, Atılım University is hosting the congress ‘One Year After the Kahramanmaraş Earthquakes’, and we’re here today to discuss the earthquakes, share our experiences, and provide our suggestions towards creating safer societies in the future.”

Asst. Prof. Dr. Halit Cenan Mertol of Atılım University Department of Civil Engineering told that an expedition group had been established, and they had visited Ground Zero for various observations and evaluations, staying in the region for 5 days. Mertol told the audience: “We were in Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Adıyaman, Gaziantep, Adana, and Osmaniye. When we returned, we prepared many reports, presentations, and technical articles. This was not the only earthquake to which we were among the first respondents as Atılım University Department of Civil Engineering; we had also previously been among the first respondents to visit whenever there was an earthquake. Our efforts started in Adana. Then, when we arrived in Antakya the next day, we saw how devastating it all had been. Many buildings were no more. Then, we went to Adıyaman, Kahramanmaraş, and Gaziantep. All terrible. Especially Kahramanmaraş and Adıyaman were on their last legs. Actually, the problem is not with the regulations that were in effect. In fact, the buildings that had come down had not even been built in a way that complied with the charter and regulations regarding earthquakes, from what we observed. So, the legislation may be improved whenever; but if they had followed the legislation that had been in effect then, some buildings could still be standing now.”

Asst. Prof. Dr. Cenan Mertol stressed that Türkiye is a country that is rich in available human resources, information, and background; stating: “While we have the resources to tackle many problems; we need to focus first on the methods, and the types of strengthening. If it becomes too expensive to strengthen a building, of course, deconstructing and rebuilding it would be better; but strengthening is your first solution, and your cheapest one. About 200 thousand buildings became unusable with the earthquake. We could just strengthen the ones already damaged, and those having suffered medium damage and are now susceptible; to skip heavy expenses, and still make them earthquake-resistant.”

After the inauguration speeches, the first half of the event continued with Asst. Prof. Dr. Polat Gülkan, Department of Civil Engineering, Başkent University; and Prof. Dr. Erdem Canbay, Head of the Department of Civil Engineering, Middle East Technical University.

In the afternoon, in the part of the event titled “Ground Movement and Damage of Earthquakes”; Asst. Prof. Dr Gökhan Tun. And Asst. Prof. Dr. Cenan Mertol of Atılım University Department of Civil Engineering took the floor, moderated by Prof. Dr. Tolga Akış.

The final session of Day One was chaired by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Meriç Yılmaz; with Günal Mahir Yatağan from the Search and Rescue Association (AKUT), Mustafa Güler from Rotary 2430 Region Federation, and Çağrı Çapar from the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change taking the floor to discuss the “Studies Taking Place Right After the Earthquakes”.

The first session of Day Two was chaired by Prof. Dr. Yakup Darama; and the topic of “The Problems in Constructs and Strengthening” was discussed by PE Neşat Bayülke from Artı Mimarlık ve Müşavirlik; Hakan Özyıldız, the now-retired Deputy Undersecretary of Treasury; and Dr. Levent Mazılıgüney, Civil Engineer and Legal Expert.

The final session of the event was moderated by Asst. Prof. Dr. Cenan Mertol. In this session titled “Our Problems and Suggested Solutions”; Bülent Tatlı, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Ankara Branch of the TMMOB Chamber of Civil Engineers, İsmail Özkan from Türkiye Official Sector Construction Contractors Employers Union, and Asst. Prof. Dr. Mikdat Kadıoğlu, Department of Meteorological Engineering, İstanbul Technical University, took the floor to exchange opinions.