from Sunday Herald, 22 August 1999
Earthquakes have been one of the biggest killers of all time. Since the beginning of this century, they have caused the deaths of at least a million people around the globe.
Yet, insist scientists and engineers, it does not have to be this way. We cannot prevent earthquakes, we may not be able to predict them, but we can now protect people from them. The tragedy is, we don't seem to bother.
Last week, it became unmistakably clear that earthquakes have not lost their killing power. The inexorably rising death toll from the disaster in Turkey - which last night stood at 40,000 - makes it one of the world's deadliest. This century, only the tremors which killed half a million in the Chinese city of Tangshan in 1976 and 142,800 in Tokyo, Japan, in 1923 were worse.
But what is so shocking to experts about the destruction of Izmit and much of Istanbul is that it was almost entirely preventable. Turkey has some of the most knowledgeable seismologists in the world. It has developed a robust set of rules for designing buildings to withstand serious earthquakes.