A magnitude 5.7 earthquake has hit Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and business hub killing one person and injuring over 40 others.
Turkey’s monitoring service the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute announced the magnitude of the quake on Thursday sending school children and residents out to the streets.
A person died of a heart attack while over 40 were slightly injured as a result of the tremor which took place 7.8 miles underground and 40 miles west of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea, south of the town of Silivri at around 2 pm local time, Al-Monitor news portal said.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) also said the quake had a 5.7 magnitude.
Nearly a hundred aftershocks with magnitudes ranging from 1.3 to 4.4 were felt across Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city with more than 15 million inhabitants and surrounding areas following the powerful earthquake.
The top section of a minaret of a mosque in Istanbul’s Avcilar district collapsed due to the tremor, while a few buildings across the city were seriously damaged.
According to a report by Diken news portal on Thursday, mobile phone coverage in the city reportedly went down seconds after the incident drawing criticism from citizens as well as several opposition lawmakers who reacted on social media.
In the aftermath of the natural disaster, the Istanbul Governor’s Office announced that schooling in the city was called off for the rest of the day.
Murat Nurlu from Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) informed that the quake measured 5.8 and occurred on the North Anatolian Fault (NAF), the Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Thursday.
NAF is an active fault in northern Anatolia that runs between the Eurasian Plate and the Anatolian Plate.
“Aftershocks as powerful as magnitude 4.5 or 4.6 might happen. Do not enter damaged buildings,” Nurlu warned.
Due to being located in a seismically active area with at least 300 active fault lines, Turkey is vulnerable to earthquakes.
Thursday’s tremor followed another one in the same city with a magnitude of 4.6 on Tuesday.
In 1999, an earthquake in northwestern Turkey measuring 7.4 killed more than 17,000 people including hundreds in Istanbul. Since then, experts have warned that a major earthquake is expected to strike Istanbul.
Al-Monitor reported that Asli Dogru, deputy director at the Kandilli Observatory, voiced the expectation once again on Thursday.
“Since 1999, there is a common consensus among scientists that the North Anatolian Fault in the Sea of Marmara is accumulating strain. Therefore, we are expecting a big earthquake in the Sea of Marmara. For now, we cannot say for sure whether this quake is its precursor,” Dogru explained.
Geophysicist Dietrich Lange who works at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiehl, Germany, also indicated that the accumulation of the tectonic strain on the NAF below the Sea of Marmara is enough to trigger another quake with magnitudes between 7.1 to 7.4.
Prof Dr. Sukru Ersoy from Istanbul’s Yıldız Technical University said during a program on Turkish television channel ATV that a major shake in Istanbul is “theoretically possible.”
“But based on my experience, I say that both of the quakes on Tuesday and Thursday seem independent and therefore may not serve as its precursors. One can never know for sure, though,” Ersoy added.
He also urged people to be calm in the face of possible aftershocks that might reach magnitudes of 4 and 5 and continue to occur in the next few weeks.
Ersoy underlined: “The major quake is going to take place, but it might even occur 10 or 20 years later, we cannot know the exact date.”
Citizens of Istanbul lashed out at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on social media on Thursday, for allegedly selling designated public safe spaces to business cronies who have built shopping malls and other profit-turning edifices on them.
“There are not hundreds [or] thousands [but] tens of thousands of safe spaces in Istanbul,” Erdogan said on Thursday, denying the claims against him and his governing party.
Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu from the main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Thursday said public safe places in Istanbul have decreased. “The public safe places [in Istanbul] have decreased. We don’t need to say it, the people can see it themselves. We are working hard to solve this issue,” Imamoglu noted.