As Turkey reels from its deadliest earthquake in decades, some residents of Istanbul have already turned their growing anxiety elsewhere – towards the next big quake.
Many people living in Turkey’s largest city shared Rahvanci’s feelings, in particular following the massive earthquakes – with magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.6 – on Monday that killed more than 21,000 people and wounded more than 80,000 others in southeastern Turkey as of Saturday. Thousands of others were killed in Syria. Officials said they expect the death toll to continue to rise.
The country is particularly prone to earthquakes, as it lies in an area where several tectonic plates meet. Quakes usually occur along the boundaries between plates. The North Anatolian Fault, which divides the Eurasian and Anatolian plates, runs close to Istanbul.
According to Sukru Ersoy, a professor of geology from Istanbul’s Yildiz Technical University, the question is when a powerful earthquake will hit Istanbul, not if it will happen.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said in a recent interview that there were some 90,000 buildings that were highly vulnerable to earthquakes in the megalopolis with a population of some 20 million people.
The mayor said another 170,000 buildings were in the medium-risk status in case of a strong earthquake, according to research conducted by Istanbul Municipality.
After Monday’s earthquakes, more than 6,400 buildings have reportedly collapsed in southeastern Turkey.
Many victims are still thought to be stuck in the rubble of collapsed buildings across the region, as search and rescue efforts continue despite fading hopes of finding survivors.
Istanbul residents watched the news coming from southeastern Turkey in shock, knowing that experts have said an earthquake in Istanbul is highly likely.
Rahvanci, who lives in the Kadikoy district and works as a sales attendant, said she lives in a building that is approximately 25 years old.
Zeynep Urs, who lives in a more than 50-year-old building in the Beyoglu district of the city, agreed, “I would consider moving to a newer building but it is currently very hard to find one with reasonable prices.”
The government improved its construction regulations after a magnitude-7.6 quake hit the western part of Turkey’s Marmara region, where Istanbul is also located, in 1999 and killed some 17,500 people.
After that earthquake, the Turkish seismic design code was enhanced and in late 2000s, the Turkish government launched a large-scale urban transformation plan to replace the buildings unsafe for earthquakes with new seismically improved ones.
Both Rahvanci and Urs said that their buildings did not have the necessary document, the so-called “earthquake report”, showing that the buildings were in line with the new regulations adopted after the earthquake in the Marmara region.
Another Kadikoy resident, Ugur Kumtas, said that he partially trusted the safety of the building he lived in with his family.
The building’s construction was finished in late 2020 and it is built according to the new regulations, according to 57-year-old Kumtas, who works as a mechanical engineer.