The earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria in February generated around 100 million cubic meters of debris in Turkey, more than other natural disasters in recent memory, according to estimates by the United Nations Development Program ( UNDP).
Recent earthquakes have left 10 times more rubble to clean than the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Efforts to clear the rubble are ongoing.
The debris, which is mostly concrete, steel and other building materials, would be enough to cover about half of DC in a meter deep of rubble.
The sequence of large-magnitude earthquakes and the vulnerability of structures in affected areas contributed to the high volume, Christine Goulet, director of the USGS Earthquake Science Center, told The Washington Post. February’s earthquake was the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939.
“The number of collapses is staggering,” Goulet said.
“A city is not built in a day. It includes buildings constructed over decades under different building codes and with varying construction practices. And while some building collapses are expected with such powerful earthquakes, they should be rare — especially among recently constructed buildings, Goulet said.
The affected region is also rich in cultural heritage sites, in addition to homes and businesses. “There is an urgent need to protect these exposed spaces and not confuse them with rubble,” said Louisa Vinton, UNDP Representative in Turkey. The organization is helping with the cleanup effort.
“It’s very tricky to describe this as debris management,” Vinton said. “These are human lives, human dreams and human memories. People lost everything in seconds.