Turkey marks 20th anniversary of Marmara earthquake
Turkey marked the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Marmara earthquake, the worst seismic disaster in the country’s recent history that killed around 18,000 people and wounded 50,000, with various commemoration events organized across the Marmara region on Aug. 17.
Crowds, as they have every year, gathered in front of the Earthquake Monument in the town of Gölcük – the epicenter of the quake – in the northwestern province of Kocaeli at 3:02 a.m. on Aug. 17, the exact moment when the 7.5-magnitude quake struck the region.
Turkey's president also observed the 20th anniversary of earthquake.
"I wish Allah's mercy upon our citizens who lost their lives in the Marmara Earthquake", Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a Twitter message.
“In the Marmara earthquake, which was a big disaster for our country, thousands of our citizens lost their lives, tens of thousands of people were injured, losing their houses. Although the years that have passed since healed our wounds, they have neither mitigated our pains nor made us forget our loved ones. And the upcoming years will also not make us forget,” said a statement released by the Kocaeli Governor’s Office.
On Aug. 16, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said Turkish authorities had since the Marmara quake inspected 730,000 buildings across the country, assessing their resistance to a possible future earthquake.
He said that the quake had destroyed 96,808 dwellings and 15,944 workplaces, especially in the provinces of Kocaeli, Sakarya, Yalova, Istanbul, Bolu and Düzce. It also led to damages in 231,364 dwellings and 32,569 workplaces, he said.
Of the destructed dwellings, 43,146 of them were rebuilt by the government following the disaster and were handed to their owners, Kurum said.
“I hereby commemorate our citizens who lost their lives in the Aug. 17, 1999 quake…Since 1999, our state has put out all the stops for similar pains not to be relived and our citizens to live in more sturdy and safe buildings as well as cities. And we, as the ministry, continue our works by showing our utmost efforts,” Kurum told Anadolu Agency.
Meanwhile, an academic told daily Hürriyet that although many precautions have been taken since the 1999 quake against another expected big quake in the Marmara region, more still needs to be done.
“We could have prepared Istanbul against an earthquake in 20 years. We had accepted 1999 as the milestone. Municipalities, governor’s offices and the government were very serious in the earthquake preparedness issue. A [quake assistance] loan of $600 million was received from the World Bank. And with this money, firstly the state buildings that need to remain standing [following a possible quake] have been strengthened: Schools, hospitals, community health centers, etc. Many viaducts and bridges have been inspected. Especially the Bosphorus bridges have been inspected if they are resistant to quakes or not .When looked at these, it is not right to stay nothing has been done after 1999, but these were not enough,” said Prof. Dr. Naci Görür, a member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences.
“For example, in case that a 7.2-magnitude quake happens, how many houses in which districts would be demolished? The analysis of such nature needs to be undertaken. The effect of a quake of 7.2 magnitude would be different, for example, in Sarıyer [district] and in Büyükçekmece [district],” he said.