has been in the news in Greece all day long yesterday
today (August 17, 1999):
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..