JU employee joins relief work in Turkey

Åke Solfeldt normally works as a Senior lecturer at the School of Engineering (JTH) at Jönköping University, where he trains future engineers in building technology and construction. But right now, he is in Turkey inspecting damaged buildings after the major earthquakes that hit the country, where he is part of the EU’s expert team, EUCPT.

Around 45,000 people are estimated to have died after the powerful earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. The earthquakes were the strongest in the region since 1939 and the devastation is immense. On 6 February, the day the earthquakes struck, the EU asked member states for expertise and resources. The next day, Åke was on the ground in Turkey. In addition to his work at the School of Engineering, he is part of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency’s (MSB) resource pool.

“It is sad to see how buildings in cities such as Kahramanmaraş, Adıyaman and Antakya have been destroyed on a large scale. In every building that has been destroyed, there are of course people who have been badly affected,” says Åke Solfeldt.

Åke Solfeldt i Turkiet

Photo: European Union (photographer: Begum Iman)

Important to have an overview of the building stock

Åke, who is a structural engineer, is responsible for inspecting and advising the EU on issues relating to damaged buildings. Amid the devastation, and without access to blueprints or further information about the buildings, he has to assess whether they are safe to live in. He mainly inspects and assesses buildings where the EU carries out some kind of activity or where EU and UN staff live.

“Since I have no blueprints or other descriptive information about individual buildings, I must use my 30-plus years of experience as a building designer, surveyor, and inspector. It’s a matter of getting an overview of how the structure of the building is supposed to work,” he says.

Inspected the area where relief work is carried out

Åke Solfeldt

Photo: European Union (photographer: Begum Iman)

He has also supported other experts in the team with other tasks, including helping at an airport to receive and coordinate materials to be passed on to affected areas.

On Monday 20 February, Turkey was hit by another major earthquake. It measured 6.4 on the Richter scale and the area was one of the most affected in the previous quakes. The day after that earthquake, Åke was on site in the city of Antakya, helping an Italian team by advising on buildings where relief work is being carried out.

“I gave advice on where tents could be set up, which parts were at imminent risk of collapse and how the buildings could continue to be used,” he says.

Åke will return to Sweden and Jönköping on 25 February, but he will remain in the MSB resource pool and is therefore available for new operations.

“If you have an interest in and can help in a wider context, then it is important to do so. I want to help others,” he concludes.

Åke Solfeldt

Several nationalities help after the earthquakes in Turkey. Photo: European Union (photographer: Begum Iman)