The Nature Warns Again

The Nature Warns Again

Earthquake in Turkey and Syria

On February 6, at 05:17 Yerevan time, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.8 (M 7.8) hit the Gaziantep province of Turkey. About 9 hours later, 100 km north of it, another powerful M 7.5 earthquake hit the Kahramanmarash province, and it was caused by the impact of the first one, but occurred on a different geological fault. These 2 main shocks are accompanied by hundreds of quite powerful aftershocks, which experts say can last for weeks, months, or even years.

Given the area's population density and the poor seismic stability of the structures, the final death toll could be closer to 100,000, and with millions left homeless. This is one of the most powerful earthquakes in this region in the last century, if not the most powerful.

Earthquake in Armenia

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others”. Here we need to somehow correct Bismarck: those who learn from their own mistakes are quite smart, and those who repeat mistakes are completely foolish.

We have recently passed through the nightmare of the Spitak earthquake, but the deep pain of the aftermath has not gone away, nor have the efforts to deal with the consequences that continue up today.

However, we never learned a lesson from these continuous warnings from nature. After the Spitak earthquake, the Soviet government developed a comprehensive plan to avoid further threats as much as possible. The plan even included the "cutting" of high-rise buildings at the level of 5-6 floors... Back in 2010, our website wrote about the highest level of vulnerability to earthquakes in Armenia and especially in Yerevan. In this assessment, 2 circumstances were taken into account, the first is the possibility of a powerful earthquake and the second is the density of the capital's buildings and their low earthquake resistance.

Perhaps the most dangerous for Yerevan is the Garni Fault, which quietly gathers energy, and no one can predict when that energy will be unleashed, but it will happen sooner or later. According to scientific research related to this fault, earthquakes hit in 1679 and 1827 reached M 7.0, the same strength as the Spitak earthquake. Let's not forget also the M 7.5 Ararat earthquake in 1840, which literally changed the shape of the mountain, and from the top of Great Ararat, 30–35-meter boulders were thrown to the foot of it...

Many people have spoken and written about this issue many times, but there is no serious approach so far, and the steps taken are miserable. So, once again, we would like to call the attention of our government, the national assembly and all other interested and compassionate parties, to seriously and responsibly take actions to withstand the possible upcoming earthquake.

What should be done?

Of course, we need to improve the technical condition of all buildings and structures. The solution of this issue is a matter of years, decades, but a clear plan must be developed urgently and strictly followed every year, every day and every hour, step by step.

The top priority is building hospitals with higher earthquake norms than the existing ones. Today, the dominant part of hospitals operating in the republic were built in Soviet times with old seismic norms..

Ensuring the seismic safety of kindergartens, schools, and all other educational institutions is also a main priority. Some schools and kindergartens have been renovated by state programs, and some have been reconstructed in order to comply with modern seismic norms, but the real "product" cannot be considered reliable. We need completely new and very strong structures. But it is necessary to start with the institutions whose buildings are in a poor and dilapidated condition, and there are still a good many of them.

All ministries, committees, local governments, police - all the state governing bodies must operate in a safe, earthquake-resistant buildings in order to carry out their work without interruption.

Housing stock is perhaps the most vulnerable and the most difficult part of the problem. Most of the buildings were built in Soviet times. In addition to the fact that the structures of that period were built according to lower seismic norms and were built of poor quality, the "construction" interventions of the residents at the discretion of the authorities of the time made the situation even more complicated. There are multi-storied buildings where residents remove the supporting concrete reinforced columns, or buildings with 1,2 and 3 story roof superstructures.

But there are also positive developments in terms of earthquake-resistant housing construction and the boom in new developments, especially in Yerevan. This new housing stock is much more seismically resistant and can be said to be a major step forward in dealing with seismic hazards. But old buildings are still left populated and the government has to think about how to deal with this issue.

There are many historic buildings in Armenia and perhaps the only solution would be to implement the maximum possible strengthening works, which is only possible in uninhabited, disused structures.

No more waiting, it’s time to act!

Today's passive concern of not acting and relying on God is a crime. Tectonic plates have been moving for millions of years and will continue to move furthermore, shaking Earth periodically. The only way to overcome a catastrophe is to be prepared for the disaster, waiting out shocks in our homes and workplaces and be sure of their seismic stability.

The terrible disaster in Turkey and Syria just warns us again and again that we must act - there is no time to wait.