Victims of 1999 disaster remembered as experts warn of next major earthquake
The victims of the 1999 Marmara earthquake, the most devastating earthquake in the history of modern Turkey, were remembered on Aug. 17, as concerns over a potential disaster of similar magnitude that is expected to hit Turkey continue to mount.
Locals in the provinces of Kocaeli and Sakarya gathered for commemoration ceremonies to mark the 21st year of the 7.4-magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in the Gölcük district of the northwestern province of Kocaeli, which lasted for about 45 seconds and killed some 17,480 people.
As city local administrators and residents attended the ceremony organized by the Sakarya Municipality, prayers were made for those who lost their lives in the earthquake.
“We experienced the disaster of the century in such a night, 21 years ago. My house was destroyed and I came out of its ruins,” said Mayor Ekrem Yüce.
A similar event was held in Kocaeli’s Gölcük district, the epicenter of the earthquake.
Those who attended the event to mark the quake’s anniversary stood in silence, paying homage on the coastline of the district at 3:02 a.m. at the exact time when the earthquake struck.
The attendees left a wreath at the “earthquake monument” in the district, after which they prayed and threw carnations into the sea.
Within the scope of commemorative events, Turkey’s Underwater Sports Federation divers have photographed the latest state of the sunken city of Değirmendere, a filled area in the district that sank after the earthquake, leading to the death of many people who gathered there.
Noting that Değirmendere sunken city is a place that will never let the earthquake to be forgotten, diver Tahsin Ceylan listed the ones who got on his lens during the dive.
“I photographed the belongings of an ice cream shop, a hotel, which was located right by the sea at that time, children’s shoes and plane trees,” Ceylan said.
It turned out that the roots of some plane trees that were sunk in the sea were still green despite the saltwater.
Meanwhile, an expert has warned for an immediate need to take precautions against the expected next major Marmara earthquake, estimating that nearly 200,000 people could die as a result of it.
“We have not made sufficient preparations and the time is running out. Now I hear the footsteps of the Istanbul earthquake,” said Mehmet Fatih Altan from Istanbul Aydın University, stressing that proper construction techniques were not used in the apartments built before 2000. Pointing to the increasing population density and the building stock in the region, the academic warned that 200,000 people could die in a possible earthquake in Istanbul.
“Houses are made of poor-quality construction materials. But people still live in those residences. More than half of those in Istanbul continue to live in such old buildings,” Altan added.
Milliyet daily visited old and abandoned buildings in Istanbul, which were decided to be demolished on the grounds that they were damaged or timeworn.
Most of those buildings are located in densely populated districts such as Beyoğlu, Kadıköy and Şişli.
Some apartments, which have active workplaces under them, have become a meeting point of drug users or a shelter for homeless people, despite their enclosure.