Erzincan Earthquake Summary

Advances in Civil Engineering, IV. International Congress, 1-3 November 2000

Eastern Mediterranean University, Gazimagusa, North Cyprus

A Case Study of Government-University-Private Sector Cooperation: Erzincan Earthquake in Turkey

Altay Birand

Middle East Technical University, Department of Civil Engineering, Ankara

(Former Undersecretary, Turkish Ministry of Public Works and Settlement)



Erzincan Earthquake is presented as a case study exemplifying a joint operation of the State agencies, The Private Sector and the Universities.

The Earthquake:

Throughout history, the city of Erzincan ,geologically situated over the East Anatolian Fault line in Eastern Turkey has been the site of damaging earthquakes. The last was in 1939 ,a devastating shock which killed more than 30000 people and in the aftermath the city had to be relocated and rebuilt. The earthquake which occurred on the 13 March 1992 affected the Erzincan Province and the Northern sections of the Tunceli province. This Earthquake claimed 500 lives and 2800 persons were injured. About 11000 households were damaged some irreparably, affecting a population of 70000.


The Project Task 

The Turkish constitution stipulates that any disaster victim should be compensated for damages by the Government.

According to the Turkish Disaster Code, it is the responsibility of the state, mainly of the Ministry of Public works and settlement to conduct lifeline earthquake engineering providing support and comfort to the victims and to intervene effectively in the removal of the debris as well as rapidly planning and implementing a rehabilitation project. To this end, the law has charged the Undersecretary of this Ministry to chair over a coordination committee comprising of all the undersecretaries of Ministries concerned and the Director Generals of the relief organisations like the Turkish Red Cross. The immediate intervention phase will not be dealt with in this paper. The subsequent rehabilitation project consisted of three phases:

1.Assessment of damage, classification of this damage according to a set of criteria and compensation of the victims according to this damage assessment:

In this operation, according to the code, the Ministry experts inspect the damage to buildings and classifies it as light damage, medium damage and heavy damage according to preset observable structural criteria of “Damage to Structures” of the Ministry. Then relief committees formed for the task provide compensations to the owners according to this in situ classification with full compensation (redesigning and rebuilding) of the dwelling unit in case of heavy (irreparable) damage. The structures that have suffered light or intermediate damage are repaired by the Ministry according to appropriate projects prepared by the ministry

2.Choosing the sites of the new dwelling units to be constructed, providing earthquake resistant design projects for such, preparing repair projects ,tender specifications and opening to tender the projects.

3.In the long term, making Erzincan a better city than before, providing extra public buildings like schools, hospitals etc.

The first two phases of short term intervention are sensitive, since although there are scientific criteria cited in the regulations, the people, after an earthquake shock, are in a state of agitation and a very careful approach is appropriate to assure them of the fairness and trustworthiness of the damage classification on the one hand and of the adequacy of the new design projects on the other.

Such a project implementation requires financial loans from out-of- country sources and the time is of prime importance. Two financial agencies were consulted: World Bank and the European Fund of Resettlement Their modes of reaction with respect to the time frame of providing funds were studied. It was determined that the realisation of money flow was quicker with the later agency. Thereupon it was decided to prepare a project proposal for Phase 2 and submit it to this agency while submitting a complementary proposal for Phase 3 to the first agency. Thus the short term operations of Phases 1 and 2 consisted of providing quick residence to the victims, and reconstructing or repairing other public, private and business buildings that were damaged. Both funding agencies required consultant firms and specialists as a prerequisite for funding.

The long term phase to make Erzincan better than before was to be financed by the World Bank and the project implementation was left to another government agency called the Public Housing Administration.

The Customary Organisation:


The State institutions that deal with such a situation are the General Directorates of Disaster Affairs and the General Directorate of Construction, both of the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement. The former deals with the Lifeline Earthquake Engineering at the outset of the disaster, coordinates the procurement and allocation of funds for the project and the latter deals with the Civil Engineering aspects of preparation of project provisions, tenders, and actual tendering for construction. In this scheme, the whole operation is one conducted by the government agencies, with usual tendering of any construction work. Construction supervision is done by the government agencies.


The Idea of a New Organisation


At the outset, a policy decision was made to involve the Universities in this rehabilitation project in close coordination with the private project firms and consultants.


The benefits were thought to be:


  1. Psychological relief to the public, owing to the presence of scientists among the experts judging the damage classification on site and a knowledge of them being involved in the future design and construction supervision,
  2. The need for using new concepts of Earthquake resistant design in the revision of the projects that the Ministry already had in stock for building new dwelling units,
  3. The intricate nature of repair of damaged buildings often needing innovative design concepts,
  4. The advantage of benefiting from the services of the University experts                                                       during the in-situ construction inspection of the buildings,
  5. Need for later codification of some of the new concepts used in the project in the design of the foundations and the superstructures,
  6. Conformance to the Turkish Earthquake code of the design projects   and the implementation of these projects,
  7. The future benefits of creating a medium of interaction between engineers from the Ministry in cooperating with scientists,
  8. A great deal of record keeping and observation made on the part of the academicians would give them a chance to use the first hand knowledge to publish the scientific findings for later record .


The Results of the New Organisation


The two Universities responding immediately to the invitation made by the Ministry, The Technical University of Istanbul and the Middle East Technical University in Ankara were invited for preparatory meetings, the above tasks were specified and the protocols signed. At this stage it must be stressed that the time allocated for the stage of project and specification preparation and going to tender was two months. Therefore it was decided to make use of the Universities as consulting and overseeing bodies and the projects to be prepared by the firms of the private sector. The Universities are hereafter designated as ITU and METU. The ITU was charged with revising and if needed, preparing Earthquake resistant rehabilitation design projects for the commercial-business buildings and the METU was to do the same for government-public buildings. Each University designated a project coordinator who formed their own task groups within their Universities. The private consultant-project firms were incorporated into the coordination scheme through the Turkish Branch of their umbrella organisation:

“Federation International des Engenieurs Counseils, FIDIC” or the “International Federation of Consultant Engineers and Architects.” Their headquarters office in Ankara and the branch office in Istanbul involved the consultant architect and engineering firms that were to work under the guidance of the University groups in revising the projects, designing the structures, later supervising actual building work and preparing contracts and specifications. The University project coordinators, with the people from the Ministry gave their opinions as to the alterations needed in the projects which were then passed on to the engineering firms for project preparation, cost analysis and bid specifications.

For repair projects the conceptual schemes developed jointly by the University-Ministry officials were again passed on to the engineering firms for final design.

Finalised projects and tender documents prepared were finally approved by the Ministry and tenders were made.

The staff of the Universities had established offices in Erzincan and worked closely together with their counterparts.

With this scheme, the following results were obtained within the time available:

  1. Sound engineering projects and tender specifications were obtained.
  2. Cost of each project and the total amount needed was estimated.
  3. The Turkish Government was properly informed of the amount of funds needed and proceeded to borrow money from outside sources armed with sound estimates.
  4. As a result of this cooperation 4400 completely new dwelling units consisting of apartments of 70 m2 were completed and given to their new owners in a period of 8 months.
  5. The psychological effect of seeing the University staff working hand in hand on site helped the public to look at the whole thing more optimistically during the project.
  6. It seems that the new scheme was successful since the Government adopted the same approach in the Dinar Earthquake three years ago, and got satisfactory results. This shows that the experience gained by the personnel who had tackled the problem earlier on has been rewarding.