Turkey’s megacity Istanbul unprepared for next deadly earthquake - experts
Istanbul is not prepared for what experts are calling an inevitable earthquake that will hit the Turkish metropolis of 16 million, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
There is a very high chance of a powerful earthquake striking under the Sea of Marmara off the coast of Istanbul, it quoted Marco Bohnhoff, a seismologist at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, as saying.
"There will be an earthquake and every day the risk of a giant tremor shaking Istanbul increases,"Bohnhoff said. "The question is not whether there will be an earthquake; it's just a matter of when.''
Tectonic strain building beneath the Sea of Marmara off the coast of Istanbul that could soon trigger a massive earthquake of up to 7.4 on the Richter scale, science website Phys.org reported last month.
Turkey on Saturday commemorated the 20th anniversary of the last time an earthquake of that magnitude hit the country. In the early hours of August 17, 1999, an earthquake measuring 7.6 at a section of the North Anatolian fault near Izmit killed more than 17,000 people and left half a million people homeless.
Critics say preparation for a large earthquake remain wholly inadequate despite stricter regulations since the second deadliest earthquake in Turkey’s history, along with the establishment of the disaster and emergency body AFAD.
Loose construction standards across the country in addition to ill-preparedness of emergency services remain sources of serious concern.
Istanbul is home to some 1.6 million buildings, half of which were constructed illegally and without proper engineering service, it said citing the Chamber of City Planners.
An earthquake in Istanbul could kill nearly 30,000 people, while injuring 50,000 others, destroying 44,800 buildings and leaving 2.6 million people homeless, according to AFAD estimates.
The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects raises the number of those that could be killed to 140,000 to 600,000 with more than 1 million families left homeless.
Deutsche Welle pointed out that many of the firms behind Istanbul’s construction boom, a driving force for Turkey’s economic growth during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 17 years in power, are tied to businesses close to the government.
The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects has accused the government had abandoned earthquake preparedness in the name of profit.
"The 'urban renewal' project has veered from the necessity of redesigning cities and creating new buildings that are resistant to earthquakes to becoming a means for the government to increase its wealth with business allies," it said in a statement to mark the 20th anniversary of the İzmit earthquake.
The construction craze has even led to areas assigned as post-earthquake assembly zones for tents and a humanitarian response to be replaced with buildings, it said, citing the Chamber of City Planners, which said that "there are only 77 such assembly areas despite the city identifying 470.’’