Turkey far behind Taiwan in building code enforcement

Construction standards based on Calif. rules

September 22, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Both Turkey and Taiwan have effectively adopted the California building requirements for earthquakes, which are intended to enable occupants to get out alive in a major earthquake even if the structure is rendered unusable, American experts said yesterday. The difference is in enforcement.

The basic techniques involve using reinforced concrete walls and columns, deep foundations and joints to transfer the stresses of a swaying structure from crossbeams to vertical columns.

"Here, we have reasonable conformity," said Peter I. Yanev, president of EQE International, a leading international earthquake engineering and safety company based in San Francisco, who recently returned from Turkey.

"In Turkey, the whole thing is done without any inspection and there's probably more corruption," he said. "You wind up with buildings that are theoretically supposed to meet the California code but are nowhere near it, with bad architecture, bad engineering, bad construction and inspection."

By contrast, Yanev said, Taiwan is full of buildings built by foreign investors with construction equal in quality to California's -- and in some cases with higher seismic tolerances.

In Hsinchu, a northern suburb of Taipei known as Taiwan's Silicon Valley, computer manufacturers have built factories with designs "even more conservative than the California code, a little more techie about it," Yanev said.

Taiwan's greatest vulnerability, he said, is that many of its buildings are built on soft soil, with open-air ground floors. There are also numbers of "sliver buildings," perhaps just a single room wide and a dozen stories tall, that are especially susceptible to an earthquake's shifts.

"You put that all together and what you have is a total disaster in Turkey, and, in Taiwan, something a little more similar to what we'll see in California in the next big one," Yanev said.

Quake aid

The following aid agencies are accepting contributions for assistance to victims of the earthquake in Taiwan. They are members of InterAction, a coalition of relief, development and refugee assistance agencies.

American Jewish World Service 989 Avenue of the Americas 10th floor New York, NY 10018 1-800-889-7146 www.ajws.org

American Red Cross International Response Fund P.O. Box 37243 Washington, D.C. 20013 800-HELP-NOW Spanish: 800-257-7575 www.redcross.org

Mercy Corps International 3030 SW First Ave. Portland, OR 97201 800-852-2100 www.mercycorps.org

Operation USA 8320 Melrose Ave., Suite 200 Los Angeles, CA 90069 1-800-678-7255 www.opusa.org

World Relief, Dept. 3 P.O. Box WRC Wheaton, IL 60189 800-535-5433 www.wr.org

World Vision P.O. Box 9716 Federal Way, WA 98063 888-511-6565 www.worldvision.org Pub Date: 9/22/99

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