Life Complexities / Quakes
This has been in the news in Greece all day long yesterday and today (August 17, 1999):
In 1943 as the Nazis were rounding up the Jews of Salonica in a part of the city, a 16-year-old girl (not a Jew) stood by in the street watching with curiosity (and I hope with horror) as the Nazis were loading them on trucks. Suddenly a Nazi soldier grabbed the 16-year-old and threw her on the truck.. >From the truck the girl was loaded on a train and finally found herself at Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp close to Munich.
At Dachau, being young and healthy, she was put to work as slave labor in a factory. There she met a young Italian soldier, Valentino, also a prisoner, as he was a deserter from the Italian army. She was driven three or four times "to the ovens where they were taking the Jews, but Valentino using his wits managed to sneak me off the line of the condemned" (her words).
In 1945 the US army entered Dachau and freed the prisoners. The policy of the liberators was to separate the prisoners and send them back to their respective countries. The Greek girl tried, in vain, to persuade them to let her go to Italy with her Italian friend. So, she returned to her home in a village in northern Greece. Her family had already written her off as dead. Her father left her to sleep only one night at the parental home and then threw her out of the house. Not a very odd thing, could have happened any place, even today, especially in deeply Christian societies. The girl, then 18 years old, had told her people about Valentino and announced that she was pregnant. Valentino did not know she was pregnant and all she had was his name and a photograph.
So, uneducated, without any experience in life (save that at Dachau), homeless and pregnant, after living awhile in parks and sleeping on park benches, she ended as a domestic in a family in Athens. She gave birth to a baby girl, which was taken away from her and given for adoption. That was 1945, so the baby stayed in Greece. As, from that year on for almost a decade, most babies of Greek single mothers (or communist women in prisons or concentration camps) were sold mostly to American couples for a couple of thousand dollars apiece. The sellers most of the time were officials of the Greek government, a US puppet. She was lucky to know who were the people that had adopted the baby and where they lived, but she promised to never give any trouble. For decades she visited the town secretly and watched her child from afar, not bothering anyone.
The adopted girl learned about her adoption when she was around 16. As she grew up she started searching for her natural mother. She found her two years ago. Now, both are trying to find Valentino. The only clues they have are Dachau, the name Valentino and a photo.
Yesterday, the Dachau woman,. now 72, looked at the TV reporter interviewing her and said: "It was not Dachau where I suffered it was in the society that I lived after Dachau that I really suffered."
Most places on earth that are quake-prone are known. History has taken care of that. (the theory of plates can help also, but it cannot explain why the biggest quake ever, in 1811 in New Madrid, Missouri, took place at the middle of a plate and not at the edges). Therefore, people at quake-prone areas know that they are in trouble. This trouble has a single parameter: the building. All other talk about faults, Richter scale, etc. is rather academic.
Since the turn of the 20th century the multi-story steel-reinforced concrete building has become the most prevalent structure in all countries. For almost one century there have been thousands of pictures, identical to those in Turkey today, of this kind of buildings that have collapsed during a quake. The dead number in the millions. In a single quake in China, in Tangshan in 1976, there were 750,000 dead. Few people are aware of that and even fewer remember.
The basic aspects of the problem:
!. The damage caused by a quake to a building is SITE SPECIFIC, that is a building can be destroyed while another one a few feet away remains intact. There is not much that citizens can do.
2. Concrete is an intrinsically BRITTLE material, even if reinforced with steel, especially vertical elements; columns, etc. This is the most important aspect of the problem. It is a political problem First,. the state has exploited to the hilt the ease with which a building can be constructed with reinforced concrete. Second, the cement industry does not care if people are crushed to a pulp between two concrete slabs of a collapsed building during a quake. They will fight to the end not to lose their profits . Citizens in quake-prone areas, especially radicals, can do a lot.. However, it will take many decades to educate the people, find alternative solutions, etc.
3. A MULTI-STORY concrete building, in a quake-prone area, is definitely a death trap. The state has the greatest responsibility for the quake carnage, as it is the one that determines the zoning regulations and allows the erection of multi-story buildings. Citizens can do a lot to protect themselves. They are the ones that buy or rent the apartments in these buildings.
4. LIQUEFACTION, the turning of a sandy soil submerged in water into a virtual liquid (for a few seconds) during a quake, is a very serious problem, because one cannot predict if a soil is liquefaction-prone, when choosing the site to erect a building. In this case a multi-story building tilts or is overturned en bloc. (Of what I have seen in the news my estimate is that there were many cases of liquefaction yesterday in Turkey.) The only thing citizens can do is press for the prohibition of the construction of multi-story buildings in areas that are suspect for liquefaction, especially by the sea.
Thus, although the quake problem in quake-prone areas seems to be purely technical, if studied in depth, it proves to be mainly political. The solution rests with the peoples of these areas. The engineers, as members of the community, if they decide to be honest, can do a lot..