The recent deadly earthquake in Türkiye reminded Romanians of the tragic March 4th, 1977. That day a deadly quake stroke Bucharest and other major cities in Romania, leaving thousands of deaths and many more injuries. Also, statistics show tens of thousands of buildings that collapsed or were damaged in Bucharest and the country, leaving 35,000 shelterless families.
Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s leader, officially visiting Nigeria at that moment, flew to the country and declared a state of emergency. That earthquake was a lesson for the communist regime. After 1977, all the buildings, especially the infamous blocks of flats, had to be constructed abiding by strict rules. Even these days, Bucharest residents put more trust into buildings erected from 1977 to 1989, the year the communist regime ended in the country, than in the new buildings.
Such tragic events pose a threat, and city dwellers try to avoid the ‘red dots blocks of flats,’ as authorities tried to indicate a seismic risk by placing red dots on old buildings built before 1977. There are not only those, as the Bucharest prefect tells the local media.
Many buildings in Bucharest have a low or very low safety rating. There are the famous ones with the red dot, but other buildings also require strengthening and better preparation to face an earthquake of greater intensity… Anti-seismic preparation, and anti-seismic rehabilitation of some buildings in Bucharest, which are not few, are of the order of 1000 buildings. The strengthening and number of buildings can be affected depending on the intensity of a future earthquake. The second part is post-earthquake preparation, and ISU is doing much better. We have done exercises, there is equipment, there is an approved plan, and every entity that gets involved post-earthquake knows very well what they have to do. However, we are having trouble with the anti-seismic strengthening of the buildingsToni Grebla, Bucharest prefect, on how many buildings with seismic risk are in Bucharest
Unfortunately, this is not the first time an official has raised this subject to public opinion, not the last time. Year after year, around March 4th, television studios talk about the tragic event in 1977. Also, each time when quakes strike in Vrancea, the main seismic area in the country, officials come to talk about the tragedy, but with little or no effort to fix the current state of things.
Are solutions to mitigate the risk from this perspective? For sure! But, as the Bucharest prefect says, there was little determination from those who could’ve done more. Bucharest is one of the most vulnerable cities in Europe if earthquakes strike, and this is what politicians seem to have failed to understand so far.
In the last 15 years, no municipality can say that it did not have money for building consolidation. Year after year, funds from the Ministry of Development and European funds remain unconsumed. We cannot work to realize projects for anti-seismic consolidation and put them into practice. This last tragic event should also wake us up to reality. It is necessary to consolidate the old buildings of BucharestToni Grebla, Bucharest prefect
Romania could’ve done more to protect its citizens, but it hasn’t. The tragedy in Türkiye could move things in the desired direction if the politicians left aside their egos and personal interests.