Marmara earthquake victims commemorated 18 years on
The victims of the 1999 Marmara earthquake, the worst seismic disaster in Turkey’s recent history that killed around 18,000 people and wounded 50,000, were commemorated early on Aug. 17 in the northwestern province of Kocaeli’s Gölcük district, the epicenter of the quake, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported.
Those who attended the commemoration event to mark the quake’s 18th anniversary stood in silent homage on the Kavaklı coastline of the district at 3:02 a.m., the exact moment when the 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck on Aug. 17, 1999.
The attendees left a wreath at the “earthquake monument” in the district, after which they read prayers and threw carnations into the sea.
Additionally, five divers from the underwater club of the Turkish Search and Rescue Association (AKUT) dived at exactly 3:02 a.m. from the coast of the Değirmendere neighborhood in the district to commemorate the victims.
Gölcük District Governor Mustafa Altıntaş gave a speech at event, during which he noted that citizens must be trained to be ready in the face of quakes as Turkey is located in a seismically sensitive area.
“Our losses do not come from earthquakes, but from ignorance,” Altıntaş said.
Gölcük Mayor Mehmet Ellibeş also gave a speech at the event, saying society was “caught off guard” to the “disaster of the century” and was “was paying a price” for that.
“We will continue the commemoration events. There are two reasons for this: To remember our martyrs and to form an awareness of the danger of earthquakes … As the people of this region we have paid a big price. Let others not pay the prime in a possible quake tomorrow. It is not earthquakes but unprepared, unstable buildings that kill people,” Ellibaş said.
Meanwhile, Kandilli Observatory head Haluk Özener said on Aug. 17 that an earthquake stronger than magnitude 7 will hit Turkey’s Marmara region in the near future.
“All scientists have accepted this: It is clear that in the near future a quake stronger than magnitude 7 will occur in the Marmara region. We cannot give a precise date, but it could happen in one fracture or two, which does not change the fact that a quake in Marmara will happen. We know the whereabouts of quakes and at which magnitude they will take place, but unfortunately with today’s technology there is no possibility of us giving a time [date],” Özener said at a press meeting organized at the Kandilli Observatory commemorating the 1999 quake.
The Istanbul Civic Defense NGO launched on Aug. 17 a social media campaign under the title: “Where are we going to shelter?” asking citizens to inform themselves about quake assembly areas in Istanbul.
The group stated that out of the 39 district municipalities in Turkey’s largest city, only nine include information about earthquake assembly areas on their websites.
“This is a call to all residents of Istanbul. Inform yourself about your nearest disaster assembly area by asking the relevant administrations. Then inspect [the areas] at the site and share the details with the hashtag #NereyeSığınacağız [Where are we going to shelter],” the campaign statement added.