Five quakes in Marmara and Aegean Seas raise renewed concerns

Five quakes in Marmara and Aegean Seas raise renewed concerns

Five quakes in Marmara and Aegean Seas raise renewed concerns

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Five consecutive earthquakes that occurred in the Marmara and Aegean seas in the last 24 hour have renewed fears that Turkey is not prepared for a strong temblor, even though the country has previously witnessed devastating seismic activity.

A moderate earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale rattled Istanbul on Nov. 16, causing short panic but no initial reports of damage or injuries.

The Kandilli Observatory in Istanbul said the tremor struck at a depth of 7.7 kilometers in the Sea of Marmara, to the south of the city, at 5:45 p.m., Agence France-Presse reported.

The quake was followed by two other quakes measuring 3.0 and 3.5 on the Richter scale at 6:36 p.m. and 7:04 p.m., respectively. The second quake struck at a depth of 8.4 kilometers while the third one was at a depth of 6.9 kilometers in the Sea of Marmara, according to data released by the Provincial Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), Anadolu Agency reported. 

The quake was felt throughout Istanbul, a metropolis of some 16 million that serves as the country’s financial and cultural hub. Istanbul residents felt the ground shift, causing brief panic.

Turkish and foreign seismologists have said Istanbul could be struck by major earthquakes in the coming decades due to its location less than 20 kilometers from the North Anatolia fault line.

On the morning of Nov. 17, another quake measuring 4.2 in magnitude occurred in the Aegean Sea, although no casualties or damage was reported in the Thracian province of Çanakkale’s Gökçeada Uğurlu village, which is the closest land area to the quake, 152 kilometers away from the epicenter. The quake struck at a depth of 12 kilometers beneath the Aegean Sea at 5 a.m., Doğan News Agency reported.

But on the same day, a strong earthquake struck off the western Greek island of Lefkada, killing at least one person and damaging several buildings, Greek police said. 

The epicenter of the magnitude-6.0 quake was 13 kilometers west of Lefkada in the Ionian Sea, the Athens Geodynamic Institute said. Police said a 59-year-old woman was killed when her house collapsed after being struck by a falling rock in the seaside village of Ponti, Reuters reported. A local resident said a second woman had been crushed to death in a stable in the mountain village of Athani. Police could not confirm her death. 

“There is a dead woman, the stable fell over her and we are still trying to recover her body under the rubble,” Nikos Rombotis, 61, the owner of a gift shop in the village, told Reuters by phone. 

The quake also damaged the main road in the southwestern part of the island.

The U.S. Geological Survey registered the quake as magnitude 6.5. Earthquakes are common in Greece, which is one of the world’s most seismically active areas, though serious injuries and deaths are rare. More than 100 people died in a severe quake near Athens in 1999.

The Ionian is particularly seismically active, and new buildings on the area’s islands are constructed to strict anti-seismic standards. Kefalonia was struck by a series of strong earthquakes, two of them with magnitudes of around 6.0, in January 2014, causing damage and minor injuries, but no fatalities.

Those temblors awakened memories of catastrophic 1953 quakes that flattened nearly all the islands’ structures, killing hundreds of people.

Turkey was shaken by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in the early hours of Aug. 17, 1999, whose epicenter was the Gölcük district in the northwestern province of Kocaeli. One of Turkey’s deadliest natural disasters in recent history, the earthquake led to the death of around 18,000 people and wounded almost 50,000 others. 

The country, however, failed to take necessary actions against the earthquake, a recent report has revealed.
“Today, Istanbul has been handed over to shopping malls and skyscrapers. The provincial Disaster Center Council worked for three years after the 1999 Gölcük earthquake and identified 493 areas for assembly and for building tents. Today, three-quarters of these areas have been given away for land speculation, unearned income,” said Cemal Gökçe, the head of the Istanbul branch of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB). “No space to set up tents and to gather has been left in Istanbul,” he said in a statement.