The Middle East covers a land area of 13.5 million square kilometers, approximately 2.8 times the size of Europe. Its population amounts to more than 185 million as compared to 450 million in Europe, distributed unequally with most living in a mere 6 percent of the total area which is regarded as cultivable and also in the cities. Also, its gross national product per capita is distributed unevenly ranging from about £38 in Ethiopia to £725 in Israel and £2200 in Kuwait with an overall average of only £120 as compared to £760 for Europe.
Until recently the rate of investment in large urban and industrial developments in the Middle East was small and in places insignificant. Consequently there have been essentially no significant economic losses from the large number of damaging earthquakes that occur in this part of the world. Although during the first 70 years of this century earthquakes have taken a toll of 130 000 lives in the Middle East, of which 73 000 perished in 22 earthquakes in Iran and 57 000 in 26 earthquakes in Turkey, damage in economic terms has remained relatively small. The average replacement cost of the 300 000 adobe houses destroyed in Turkey during the period 1900–1966 hardly amounts to a few tens of millions of pounds (Ambraseys 1972). The replacement cost of similar types of construction destroyed in other, less developed parts of the area, is even smaller. For instance, the Silakhor earthquake of 1909 in Iran, in which more