Turkey to build 2 'new cities' for Istanbul

AP News
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Posted: May 11, 2011 8:00 AM
Turkey to build 2 'new cities' for Istanbul

Turkey on Wednesday announced plans to build two earthquake-resistant developments in the Istanbul area to lure residents away from dangerous neighborhoods.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the first of two "new cities" would be built on abandoned quarries and coal pits at the edge of Istanbul's European side. The second would be located on unused land on the Asian side, he said, without providing further details.

The two new urban centers would have a population of about 1 million each.

Erdogan said studies for the project would begin soon after Turkey's June 12 elections, while construction would start next year. The main aim of the project is encourage people living in Istanbul's earthquake-prone areas to move, he said.

"We want to rescue our Istanbul from settlements that could perhaps lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the event of an earthquake," Erdogan said. Any population transfer would happen on a voluntary basis, he said.

The city of more than 12 million sits near a major fault-line. In 1999, two powerful earthquakes struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.

Authorities say the city is ill-prepared for a major earthquake and experts have warned that overcrowding and faulty planning and construction could lead to large numbers of casualties.

Erdogan is vying for a third term in office in the elections and opinion polls show his ruling party has strong electoral support.

Last month, Erdogan announced an ambitious plan to construct a canal linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, to divert tanker traffic away from the overcrowded Bosporus strait and reduce the risk of accidents there.