Many Tehran Hospitals Need Seismic Retrofits

Tehran’s fuel depot is also located on Tehran Northern fault in Shahran neighborhood.Tehran’s fuel depot is also located on Tehran Northern fault in Shahran neighborhood.

Studies conducted by the Road, Building and Urban Development Research Center have indicated that several hospitals are located on major fault lines in the city.

“The hospital names cannot be disclosed yet, as it may cause undue problems but guidelines for seismic retrofitting of the hospitals have been notified to the Health Ministry,” said Dr. Ali Beitollahi, director of the Earthquake Department at the research center on Sunday.

Seismic retrofitting is the modification of existing structures to make them resistant to seismic activity, ground motion, or soil failure, SalamatNews website reported.

Additionally, several main highways in the capital are located on fault lines including Babaee, Sadr, Niayesh, Chamran, Azadegan and Imam Ali, and therefore, in the event of a strong earthquake in the city, and if the highways are damaged or blocked, it will prevent rescue teams from reaching the affected areas and victims, he said.

“Unfortunately, the budget allocated to the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development is not adequate to take measures to fix the problem.”

  Shahran Fuel Depot

Tehran’s fuel depot is also located on Tehran Northern fault in Shahran neighborhood.

“The depot should be transferred to a safer place as soon as possible. If not, the fuel tanks should be retrofitted against possible dangers,” he said.

Earlier in 2014, Ahmad Masjed Jamei, a member of Tehran City Council (TCC) had noted that the fuel depot in Shahran in the northwestern part of the capital was out of the capital’s municipal jurisdiction decades ago; however, with the expansion of the city boundaries over the years, it has come within the city limits.

“The immediate relocation of the fuel tanks is not possible, but some measures can be taken to reduce risk of tanks bursting during earthquakes and other natural disasters,” Beitollahi added. However, no measures have been taken so far to reduce the risks.

The seismic hazard zone maps developed by the ministry have been sent to the Tehran Municipality, which is responsible for issuing permits for building construction projects in the capital city.

“From now on, strategic structures like hospitals or important public utility centers should be banned from being constructed in the fault zones.”

  Distressed Areas

From among 1 million residential and commercial buildings in Tehran, about 205,000 (20%) are located in distressed urban areas.  

Also, according to official figures, about 17% of the city population is living in distressed buildings.

Nearly all buildings in these areas are not earthquake-resistant and are likely to be destroyed by tremors stronger than 5.5 on the Richter scale, Beitollahi said.

“High population density and narrow passages in these localities can make rescue difficult.”

According to Iran’s Industrial Development and Renovation Organization, annually 8% of all distressed residential units across the country are renovated, which means renovation of all the units will take 12-13 years and during this period more buildings are sure to become distressed.

Meanwhile, the figure is 36% in Tehran (5 times higher than other cities).

Distressed urban areas are defined as urban blocks where at least 50% of the buildings are dangerous, dilapidated or old structures, and are highly vulnerable to natural hazards (especially earthquakes).

The passages in these areas are less than six meters wide and their buildings mainly have a land area of less than 200 sq m.

  Global Seismic Spots

Global seismologists warn that several spots around the world face the potential for an earthquake as devastating as the one that hit Kathmandu in Nepal in April 2015.

“Anytime you dump that amount of kinetic energy into a major city, bad things will happen,” according to Gregory Beroza, a Stanford University seismologist, as reported in

 Some of the cities that most concern seismologists are Tehran, Istanbul and Los Angeles.

Tehran is located near three major fault lines and the risk of an earthquake is high. It’s also built on relatively new sediment that doesn’t do a great job of supporting buildings when the ground shakes. On top of that, the city has grown rapidly, and earthquake readiness was not a focus in building new homes.

There’s a 90% chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake in the coming decades. And, because of the city’s location and poor construction standards, even a quake of that size would be devastating.

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