Monday, March 8, 2010

Quake in Turkey

I'm fascinated by how quickly news becomes "olds" these days, and I'm sure you've heard of the 5.9- to 6.0 quake that occurred in Turkey last night. I'm pleased to report that most of the stories I've glanced over are correctly mentioning this recent spate of earthquakes is statistically normal, if they bring it up at all. (I think they're a little stung by criticism of their reporting on Chile last week- see the previous post and links.) What's unusual is that they have occurred repeatedly in inhabited areas, with the Haiti and Turkey quakes in areas that were terribly prepared and engineered to cope.

I was talking to my two Turkish friends a few minutes ago, and learned two things I hadn't known before: first, while I had known that much of the construction in the affected villages was mud bricks, Murat said that during the winter, they absorb moisture and essentially double in weight. He said if the same quake had occurred during the summer, the fatalities would have been much lower. Second, they said that the roofs are made of turf- some families actually grow vegetable gardens on their roof. They want thick turf for maximum insulation. I didn't think to ask how, lacking much in the way of sturdy wood, they support such a heavy ceiling during normal periods.

So when I saw the above picture this morning, I was picturing all the soil as the result of the wall digging in, then flipping up, as it collapsed and wedged into the ground. But no, that's the roof.

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