Turkish rescue association warns of devastating impacts of expected Istanbul quake

Turkish Search and Rescue Association (AKUT) head Recep Şalcı has said although 23 years have passed by since the 1999 Marmara earthquake, Istanbul has not made much progress in terms of urban transformation projects. “If the Istanbul earthquake happens at the magnitude that we expect, we can never be ready,” he said. Meanwhile, veteran seismologist Prof. Naci Görür said that the long-awaited quake is expected to have a magnitude between 7.2 and 7.6.

Duvar English

The head of the Turkish Search and Rescue Association (AKUT), Recep Şalcı, has marked the 23rd year anniversary of the devastating Aug. 17, 1999 Marmara earthquake, warning that unless Istanbul “renews its buildings stocks,” the city might “be never ready for” the long-awaited earthquake.

“We are regrettably saying that the buildings built in Turkey before 2018 are risky. The ones built between 2003-2018 are partially safer, but a resistance test needs to be certainly conducted for the ones built before 2003. The regulations with regards to these buildings are not very clear, but we can easily say that the buildings from before 2003 are risky,” he was quoted as saying by BBC Turkish on Aug. 16.

Şalcı said that in the face of a calamity, transportation and evacuation will be the two most important problems in Istanbul. 

“If the Istanbul earthquake happens at the magnitude that we expect, we can never be ready. We need to say this. Istanbul is one of the biggest cities of the world. The population density is very high, and Turkey's preparation [to be ready for a big earthquake] would last 20 years. Some 23 years have passed by since the 1999 earthquake. This needs to be planned very well,” he said.

“The first thing that we need to do to be ready for an earthquake is to renew building stocks. And this goes through urban transformation. We need to plan urban transformation very well and then start it as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, veteran seismologist Prof. Naci Görür once again warned about the devastating impacts of the long-awaited Istanbul earthquake, saying that its magnitude is expected to be between 7.2 and 7.6 and that mostly the European side's coastal districts will be affected. Citing a report of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, he said that 50,000 buildings in the megacity will be “damaged greatly.”

He said that even a simple mathematical calculation shows at least 320,000 people's lives are in danger in the city.

“Assume that 10,000 buildings [out of 50,000] have cases of death, and no one dies in the remaining 40,000 buildings. If you think every building have four floors, these would make up 40,000 floors. If you put 2 flats in every floor, that would make 80,000 apartment flats. If you would put 4 people in every flat, that would mean 320,000 people will directly come face to face with death. This is the situation even though we have minimized it so much. So you calculate the loss of lives that could occur," he said. 

The long-awaited earthquake is expected to create massive material devastation in the city, and experts often note that the construction in the metropolis is unlikely to be prepared for the quake.