Grief still raw 16 years after Gölcük earthquake
DHA photoAug. 17 marked the 16th anniversary on the deadly earthquake in which around 18,000 people were killed in seconds overnight in northwestern Turkey. The pain of grieving families remains undimmed since 1999.
Flowers were thrown into the sea on the Kavaklı coastline of Gölcük in the northwestern province of Kocaeli at 3:02 a.m. on Aug. 17, the exact moment when the 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck.
Prayers were read in the cemetery of Gölcük for the victims.
Gülhanım Eriş, who lost nine of her relatives - including her father, brother, and niece - said she was still unable to overcome the effects of the quake.
“We have not forgotten that day. Our depression has not ended, it is increasing every day. I still cannot sleep in a room with the door closed. I still cannot enter buildings higher than three storeys,” Eriş said.
Nilgin Baştopçu lost 30 relatives, including four from her close family, in the quake, and criticized the authorities for allowing many new five-story buildings to be built in the town in recent years, despite Gölcük being located on a serious fault line.
Gölcük was the epicenter of the 1999 earthquake. One of Turkey’s deadliest natural disasters in recent history, almost 50,000 were injured in the quake in addition to the 18,000 killed.
Gölcük Mayor Mehmet Ellibeş said he had concerns about the safety of some old buildings in the town, speaking during a ceremony.
“As a mayor, I fear [an earthquake]. We have hesitations and fears about the oldest buildings. We don’t have to live with this fear. We all should test all our buildings. The related institutions are expecting [locals’] applications for tests,” said Ellibeş.