Open Journal of Earthquake Research, 2013, 2, 84-90
Published Online November 2013 (
Open Access OJER
The Analysis of the Van-Ercis Earthquake, October 23,
2011 Turkey, for the Transportation Systems
in the Region
Hakan Aslan
Department of Civil Engineering, Division of Transportation, Sakarya University, Adapazarı, Turkey
Received September 18, 2013; revised October 20, 2013; accepted November 4, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Hakan Aslan. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This paper investigates the effect of the Van-Ercis, Turkey, (Mw: 7.2) earthquake occurring on 23rd of October, 2011 on
the transportation ne tworks in th e region . The basic incen tive for this research is to conceptualise the reliability and per-
formance of the networks after the earthquake through the operational and topological analysis of the system. The de-
mand and composition of the traffic along with the behaviour of the pedestrians were taken in to account to evaluate the
performance of the networks. In addition , the general structure of the cities and towns, as far as planning is concerned,
is also paid attention and regarded as one of the main elements for the appraisal. The outcomes obtained are thought
very important to be guidance for the expected Istanbul earthquake in the near future.
Keywords: Earthquake Hazards; Functionality and Reliability of Transportation Networks; Degraded Road Networks
1. Introduction
The investigation of transportation networks under the
possible effect of natural disasters, such as earthquakes,
floods, hurricanes etc., became more important after the
Kobe earthquake in Japan in 1995. The basic motivation
of these researches is to investigate the reliability and
durability of the road networks from the perspective of
infrastructure planning and traffic management when
some of the components, such as links, of the system are
partly closed to traffic with reduced capacity or com-
pletely out of use resulting in degraded networks.
Nicholson and Du (1997) prop osed an integrated equi-
librium model for the networks with long term capacity
degradation to allow the traffic flow to adjust itself and
move towards a new equilibrium situation [1]. The pro-
posed model is a multi-modal network in the sense that
the disaster will not necessarily affect all the transporta-
tio n modes equally. The model mainly assesses the socio-
economic impacts of road networks under degradation
and produces a unique equilibrium solution when a stan-
dard concave programming algorithm is used.
Asakura (1998) d eveloped an ap proximation algor ithm
for nondeterministic network states as the probability of
the failure of a link in the system cannot be precisely
determined due to the nature of the earthquake or any
other type of disasters [2]. The algorithm investigated the
performance of the network through possible network
states in terms of the stochastic travel time of an OD pair
given in the network. The comparison of generated travel
time in a degraded road network considering every com-
bination of the link failures to normal network state is
based on the reliability measure defined as the probabil-
ity of whether the ratio of the travel times obtained from
both degraded and normal network states remain within a
predetermined acceptable level. The proposed algo-
rithm converges to the exact expected value through up-
per and lower bounds of reliability measure by employ-
ing the most probable state vectors reflecting optimistic
and pessimistic expectation of the operated/failure func-
tion, respectively.
Kiremidjian et al. (2007) proposed a method for the
performance evaluation of a highway transportation sys-
tem based on the expected loss from damage to bridges
and resulting travel times [3]. The method analysed the
network by assuming both the travel demand is fixed and
variable after earthquake. Risk assessment of transporta-
tion system was based on the consideration of both direct
cost of the damage and the costs resulting from time de-
lays in the degraded system. The evaluation of the travel
times for all O-D pairs in the system was carried out by
using the commercial so ftware EMME/2. The study con-
firmed the fact that the total vehicle hours increased for
the post-earthquake state even the demand in the system
is supposed to be the same with the normal network. The
variable travel demand model on the other hand, pro-
duced decreased vehicle travel hours as the model as-
signed fewer trips to the system.
Samadzadegan and Zarrinpanjeh (2008) suggested a
pre-event digital vector map and post-event high resolu-
tion satellite imagery usage to design and assess the da-
mages to the road networ ks [ 4 ] .
Shoji and Toyota (2012) analysed the functionality of
road networks over which the restoration process of life-
line systems is carried out [5].
As having huge potential of major earthquakes, Tur-
key faces high probability of devastating earthquakes in
the near future. The one being expected to hit the Mar-
mara region where Istanbul is located seems to be the
most important with the possible magnitude around Mw:
7.0 and is thought to have a significant effect on the daily
life of the people causing possibly many of them to be
killed and the general economy of the country. This is
simply due to the fact that the population density and
industrial activity in the region represents the highest
level for the country.
This paper investigates the technical points of the
Van-Ercis earthquake with regard to transportation prob-
lems, assesses the network topology and proposes some
likely countermeasures to be taken to relieve the adverse
effects of the earthquakes by bearing in mind the plan-
ning characteristics of the cities in Turkey.
2. The Transportation Network
Performance of City of Van
The earthquake which hit the southern part of Turkey on
23rd of October, 2011 and affected Van, Igdır, Agrı, Bit-
lis, Kars, Batman, Siirt, Hakkari, Erzurum, Sanlıurfa,
Mardin Mus, Diyarbakır and Northern Iraq had a magni-
tude of 7.2 Riechter Scale (United States Geological
Survey, Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research
Institute). This earthquake is one of the top three earth-
quakes along with Kocaeli, Mw 7.6 in 1999 and Duzce,
Mw 7.1 in 1999, and among the first ten strongest for the
last 110 years in terms of moment magnitude. Acco rding
to official figures, 604 and 2000 people lost their lives
and wounded, respectively. The number of people res-
cued from the rubbles is given as 222.
Although ther e was not any prob lem to arrive Van, the
most affected city in the region, by plane, some one-hour
delays were reported due to the restriction on parking
facilities at the airport during the first couple of days
after the disaster. In general, however, it should be stated
that the role of Van Ferit Melen Airport was vital for the
transportation of the rescue teams and emergency mate-
rials from both Turkey and all over the world to the city.
As the destructive effect of the earthquake in the Van
city centre was limited and the number of buildings col-
lapsed was just a few, the city transportation network
system performed its function without significant de-
crease in its capacity. This provided an efficient trans-
portation environment to reach the places where people
were in urgent need. The transportation infrastructure
interms of both roads and traffic management applica-
tions, such as traffic signals, was functional and traffic
flows were quite running. Figure 1 illustrates the func-
tionality of the transportation network at the heart of the
city of Van.
The relative high number of the people left the city
due to the psychological reasons after the earthquake
caused the demand to decrease significantly by having
positive effect on the quality of the city transportation
system. The main form of the public transportation , para-
transit systems, performed its function and there was not
any degradation on service quality.
The state highways connecting Van-Muradiye, Mu-
radiye-Caldiran, Caldiran-Ercis, Ercis-Adilcevaz, Adilce-
vaz-Ahlat, Ahlat-Tatvan, Tatvan-Edremit, Edremit-Van
were not directly affected by the earthquake, and there
was not any decrease in terms of the level of service
apart from those caused by routine maintenance and con-
struction works. Although some minor cracks caused by
the faulting mechanism were determined on the Ercis-
Van state highway, located very close to the earthquake
epicentre, the required repairs were done quite swiftly
and effectively so that no major negative impact experi-
enced by the traffic. Figure 2 clarifies the effect of fault
on the land and state highway.
As for village roads; Van -Alakoy road was determin ed
as the one physically affected by the fault. Nevertheless,
as the cracks were repaired quite rapidly, the traffic flow
and connection wer e not affected. The Figure 3 gives an
idea about the size of the cracks on the road and their
repairs providing smooth traffic flow.
Figure 1. Signalised intersection between the airport and
the Van city centre after earthquake.
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Figure 2. The effect of fault mechanism on Van-Ercis state
road and its repair.
Figure 3. The cracks and repaired road sections on Van-
Alakoy village road.
The effect of the earthquake being local on a few
points in the region along with quick and efficient re-
sponses should not b e deceptive and not to cause th e un-
derestimation of the requirement of the enough human
sources, mechanical equipment stock as well as taking
the measures of the maintenance work before the earth-
quake for the transportation systems prone to high scale
earthquake impact.
Having this size of earthquake in major cities like Is-
tanbul may result in significant cracks causing the loss of
continuity of roadway and highway surface. As a result,
there might be major connectivity problems along the
network preventing the people reaching and leaving the
highly affected areas. The connectivity plays very im-
portant role to rescue people from the rubbles and take
them to the hospitals in the vicinity at the earliest time
possible. The infrastructure must be kept as strong and
robust as possible to minimise this adverse outcomes
stemming from the cracks to be occurred as a result of
strong earthquakes. The major intersection points may be
regarded as the key lo cations with this regard and utmost
effort should be paid to get the minimal connectivity
problems in case of a strong earthquake.
3. The Analysis of the Effects of the
Earthquake on Ercis Network System
The district of Ercis where the highest destructive effect
of disaster was observed became the mostly affected
residential area with regard to transportation network
performance. Although the ring road, Figure 4, passing
the outside of Ercis and connecting the cities of Van and
Agrı was not affected, central transportation system of
the town was badly deteriorated.
The traffic on the main arteries of the town; Zeylan,
Inonu, Cinarli, Emniyet and Ataturk Avenues, were dis-
rupted due to the partly closures caused by the collapsed
buildings on both sides of the roads. Figure 5 demon-
strates the main arteries of Ercis town centre.
The average travel speed is measured about 15 km/h
(around 10 mph) at the town centre. The reason behind
this low speed is attributed toon the one hand the capac-
ity reduction of the roads, on the other hand the insuffi-
ciency for the applied traffic management and arrange-
ment techniquesalong with the disobedience of the driv-
ers and pedestrians to the traffic rules. The effective and
efficient arrangements of horizontal and vertical traffic
signs within a short period of time would result in a bet-
ter traffic movement in terms of the physical capacity
usage of the road network.
Figure 4. The Erci s ri ng-r oad after the earthquake.
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Figure 5. Ercis town centre and transportation network.
Figure 6 next page illustrates the chao tic nature of the
traffic in Ercis town centre explaining the slow travel
Since the daily needs of the people, such as cooked
food, water, blankets etc., are provided on the roads of
the town by the specially designed lorries, there were
long queues at the town cen tre blocking the through traf-
fic to a degree causing slower traffic on some parts of the
As the earth-movers used to remove the rubbles had to
use the network unlike from the usual daily traffic condi-
tions, the concomitant effect of this usage on the average
travel speed was unavoidable. This effect comes from
both the slow speed and the size of these types of vehi-
cles. It has been observed that the capacity of the roads is
heavily occupied by these earth-movers on every time of
the day.
Since the alternative road sections were not available
for the through traffic, there occurred long queues right
behind of these vehicles with even more r educed av erag e
travel speed of 15 km/h along Zeylan street. It has been
advised to the local autho rities that the development plan
for the topology of the transportation network in the Er-
cis town centre must consider this point and alternate
connections must be available for the town centre. The
radial network system seemed to be quite effective and
feasible with this regard for the future planning of the
town centre in Ercis providing alternate connections be-
tween Zeylan street and the ring road.
Figure 7 clearly shows the effect of non-daily traffic
vehicles and movements on the traffic after earthquake.
The present bridges, viaducts and tunnels on the pre-
mentioned alignments of highways in the region per-
formed their functions and none of them has been re-
ported being totally or partly collapsed causing signify-
cant accessibility problem. Figure 8 illustrates the bridge
on the road between Van and Alakoy, one of the villages
mostly affected by earthquake.
As being the key elements of whole transportation
network in terms of providing essential connectivity,
bridges and viaducts are extremely important road sec-
tions. Thus they have to be constructed carefully and
strongly by paying attention on their role and inevitable
importance in case of an earthquake.
Figure 6. The chaotic structure of the central traffic flow at
the town of Ercis.
Figure 7. The effect of earth-movers on Ercis town centre
Figure 8. A functional bridge just before Alakoy.
4. The Effect of City Planning and Collapsed
Buildings on the Traffic Flow
It was fortunate that there were only a few buildings col-
lapsed blocking the main arteries to a certain extent by
not causing in total connectivity failure. In addition, al-
most every main artery was accessible through the
available side roads providing a passage for the emer-
gency and health service vehicles to take the required
action on time. If the destructive effect of the earthquake
had been more severe with much more building falling
down, the topological char acteristics of the transpor tation
network would not have lessened the negative aspects of
the outcomes to be experienced. The town centre, where
the governmental offices are located to be used for man-
aging the earthquake, was reachable only via Zeylan
street. The total closure of this single artery in the future
earthquakes means that the management of the earth-
quake would be much less efficient in terms of both pro-
viding the basic life saving equipments to the people and
the coordination of the organisations being in the region
to help the residents.
Another important point to be taken into account is re-
lated with the development plan of the cities and towns
especially with the high-density pop ulation. The required
distance between the edge of the roads and the buildings
with regard to the height of those buildings should be
determined in a way that the collapse of the buildings
would not cause the entire even partly closures, reducing
the capacity significantly, of the roads to be used for ef-
fective response in case of earthquake. The minimisation
of this negative effect for the main arteries plays a vital
role for the performance of the transportation network for
the future and stronger earthquakes in the region. On
some main roads in Ercis, it was observed that residential
buildings started just the end side of the main roads
without even pavement sections for the pedestrian usage.
The collapse of such buildings had direct impact on the
partly closure of the vital roads.
Figure 9 illustrates the effect of the collapsed build-
ings on the main arteries in Ercis.
Another striking point observed was the lack of park-
ing spaces for the private cars both day time and night
time. It has been detected that the number of cars
squashed under the rubbles of the buildings is quite nu-
merous. This fact must urge the local authorities to de-
termine and provide safe parking areas and facilities for
the people living in Ercis. This would surely minimise
the cost of the car owners and insurance companies along
with providing excellent opportunity to use the parking
areas as the accommodation of the people in the tent cit-
ies. Day-time usage of the parking areas as part of the
park-and-ride traffic would result in the demand reduc-
tion revealing the traffic congestion in the town centre.
According to the traffic survey conducted by us the re-
quired parking area for the day time is for 5000 vehicles
in terms of car equivalent around the town centre.
Figure 10 might give an idea about the collapsed
buildings and trapped vehicles under the rubbles.
In order to maximise the mobility of those vehicles,
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Figure 9. The effect of collapsed buildings on the town cen-
tre traffic in Ercis.
especially the heavy ones, carrying aid materials, the
traffic assignment and parking locations of these vehicle
must be predetermined, which was not the case in Ercis.
This would certainly provide the fastest arrival of these
vehicles to the points where they are needed by mini-
mising their possible adverse effects to the daily traffic
on the network. The fact that around 150 articulated lor-
ries demanded to use the network daily in the first three
weeks to provide the urgent needs for the people of Ercis
with the population of 90,000 caused the network to be
much busier and slower than the pre-earthquake state.
The size and number of these vehicles were beyond the
capacity and physical structure of the town network for a
smooth and efficient traffic flow. It is quite clear that this
becomes much more important for a possible earthquake
affecting major cities with a population more than couple
of millions.
The present law forces the compulso ry construction of
the parking areas under the apartments through the
basement. This provides both parking facilities for the
vehicles and stronger buildings against earthquakes.
However, the investigation of this point in Ercis town
Figure 10. Vehicle s tr apped under the collapsed buildings.
centre revealed the fact that even major buildings did not
have such facilities. The importance of this emphasised
during the technical meetings with the local authorities
and they were asked to show zero tolerance for the
non-construction of these basements as the construction
would increase the cost of the bu ilding to some extent.
5. Pedestrian Movements
Another important traffic element that should be men-
tioned is the movement of the pedestrians. The disorgan-
ized nature of the traffic right after the earthquake influ-
enced the pedestrians as well. The observed pattern of
the pedestrians in Ercis town centre was quite disorderly
without obeying the basic traffic rules, including disobe-
dience to traffic lights, walking on the pavements, sud-
den crossings the roads, etc. Although this can be toler-
able to some extent considering the slow moving nature
of the traffic and the psychological situation of the peo-
ple right after the disaster, all measures should be taken
to prevent th is traffic pattern to be the d aily habitual after
the earthquake’s adverse effects disappear in the long
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6. Discussions and Conclusions
The problems caused by earthquake should be dealt with
through holistic approach as it is related with many as-
pects of the daily life. Security, health services, geotech-
nical engineering, structural engineering, Emergency Aid
and Rescuing, infrastructure of life-lines, transportation
etc. are some of the parts of all these multi-categorised
nature of the earthquake. All these sub-elements point
out the effective coordination between the official and
private organisations for the risk and hazard analysis of
the earthquake.
As far as the transportation system and risk analysis
are concerned, the connectivity, travel time and capacity
reliability evaluations with regard to different scenarios
must be done well before the earthquake hits and the
strategies should be developed in terms of the worst case
scenario. This analysis would not only relieve the trans-
portation system and traffic flow but will also provide an
efficient rescuing activity along with the fact that the aid
materials reach their required destinations efficiently
after the earthquake.
These studies have not been done in the region thor-
oughly and the cities and towns were not ready for the
devastating effects of the earthquakes. Luckily, the effect
of the earthquake was not proportional to the magnitude
of it. If the effect had been bigger, the result that has
been faced with would not have been as moderate as it
The optimal locations of the rescue centres are another
important problem in the field of transportation to be
solved. This is vital as far as the prompt actions to be
taken to save the lives.
The realistic evaluation of the transportation system as
a whole in the region revealed the following points to be
considered to lessen the current and possible future effect
of the earthquakes in the region and as a whole.
The network topology must be analysed to make sure
that maximum accessibility is available in case of
earthquake for the future planning of the cities and
towns. The vital official organisations are to be lo-
cated to minimise the adverse effects of the present
topology’s accessibility limitations. The determina-
tion of these locations is an optimality problem to be
The constructional arrangements of the buildings es-
pecially on the major arteries should be done to
minimise the possible road closures in case of col-
The parking facilities should be analysed and required
capacity must be provided at the feasible locations of
the cities and towns by considering the needs of the
aid convoys, too, as an element in emergency trans-
portation planning in long-term planning.
Horizontal and vertical traffic signs must be repaired
and kept operational right after the earthquake to pro-
vide a safe and efficient traffic environment for both
vehicles and pedestrians.
The availability of the public transportation system
plays an extremely important role after the earthquake
for the mobility of the population in an effort to re-
duce the earthquake effect on the mobility. Hence, it
is vital that the infrastru ctures of the public tran sport-
tation systems are functioning. The provision of this
results in orderly and efficient traffic system on the
network by encouraging people using public trans-
portation systems rather than being on the roads
without obeying the traffic rules with their private
In order to give the impression to the people that the
traffic system is still under control and operated by
professionals even after the earthquake, these officials
must be ready for the post-earthquake network man-
agement through proper training sessions. The con-
tents of these sessions are to be determined by taking
into account of the plants and paths of the public
transportation, general behaviour of the public,
physical structure of the transportation network and
possible magnitude of the earthquake itself.
As the major transportation corridor to Iran is in this
region, the possible future earthquakes might affect this
highway corridor inextricably tied to transportation net-
work causing significant trade loss. The required main-
tenance works must be properly scheduled and the plants
must be kept ready all the time to minimise the adverse
effects of the earthquake in this sense.
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[3] A. Kiremidjan, J. Moore, Y. Y. Fan, O. Yazlalı, N. Basoz
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[4] F. Samadzadegan and N. Zarrinpanjeh, “Earthquake De-
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