Turkey’s devastating Marmara Earthquake commemorated on 17th anniversary

Turkey’s devastating Marmara Earthquake commemorated on 17th anniversary

KOCAELİ/YALOVA – Anadolu Agency
Turkey’s devastating Marmara Earthquake commemorated on 17th anniversary

DHA photo

The victims of the 1999 Marmara Earthquake – the most devastating earthquake in the history of modern Turkey with over 17,000 deaths – were commemorated in northwestern Turkey late on Aug. 16 and early on Aug. 17, as concerns over a potential disaster of similar magnitude continue to prevail.

Locals in the provinces of Kocaeli, Yalova, and Sakarya gathered for commemoration ceremonies to mark the 17th year of the 7.4-magnitude Marmara Earthquake that originated in the Gölcük district of the northwestern province of Kocaeli, which lasted just 45 seconds but led to the death of 17,480 people.

In the Gölcük district of Kocaeli, crowds gathered early on Aug. 17 in front of the Earthquake Monument and stood for in silence at 3:02 a.m., the moment when the massive temblor shook the region in 1999, overall affecting around 16 million people at various levels.

Delivering a speech to the crowd, which left wreaths for the victims, Gölcük Governor Adem Yazıcı said the quake marked a “milestone” for Turkey, noting that “the past has always been questioned” in ceremonies made for earthquake victims. 

In the northwestern province of Yalova, where the disaster created huge damage, locals have also gathered at 03:02 a.m. at the Earthquake Monument, which was built on the wreck of a building that collapsed during the earthquake. Gathered crowds at the ceremony, attended by Yalova Mayor Vefa Salman and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial head Yusuf Ziya Öztabak, also left flowers in front of the concrete blocks on which the victims’ names were written. 

“I survived in a place as big as a matchbox. I was under wreckage for 18 hours. After I was treated at hospital I retired ... It has been 17 years but to me it feels like 17 minutes. Our sorrows are all just as fresh. I lost my mother in the earthquake. It is impossible to forget that pain,” said one of the survivors, Mahmut Camkıran, who was stuck under the wreckage of a three-storey building after the quake.  

In Sakarya province, meanwhile, a ceremony was held by the Serdivan Municipality for the victims. Speaking during the ceremony, Sakarya Deputy Governor Bekir Dınkırcı said “crucial experience” was gained from the disaster and scientific studies must be developed further in order to protect and secure brighter futures. 
Prime Minister Binali Yıldrım has also commemorated the victims of the earthquake on his official Twitter page.

“We have not forgotten the pain that burned all of Turkey’s heart some 17 years ago and we will never forget it,” Yıldırım tweeted, also sharing a picture of images showing devastation at the time. 

While ceremonies marked the importance of the Marmara Earthquake in the memories of those affected, many have pleaded caution. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Ali Şeker said in a press meeting that Turkey was still not sufficiently prepared, 17 years after the deadly earthquake, and was “even going backwards” in terms of safety measures.   

“The fact that this danger is being kept away from public eyes does not mean it is far from us. Another large earthquake will eventually happen and that day is advancing rapidly. We should take more measures,” said Şeker.

Some 470 emergency gathering areas designated for a potential earthquake has been turned into malls and skyscrapers in recent years, he added.