A Turkish earthquake expert has stated that Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and business center, is getting closer to the long-predicted “big one,” according to a report by the Gazete Duvar news website on Friday.
“We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but we’re heading towards an end,” Professor Haluk Ozener, head of the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute, on Friday said.
Echoing other experts’ views that a major earthquake will shake Istanbul sooner or later, Ozener explained that there was an accumulation of energy in the North Anatolian Fault (NAF) that would eventually come out.
Running between the Eurasian and Anatolian plates, the NAF is an active fault line in northern Anatolia.
“We must accept that Turkey is an earthquake-prone country and take the necessary measures thinking that a shake might occur anytime,” the professor warned.
Ozener’s statement came after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit southwest of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea at around 2 pm local time on Thursday.
Schools and hospitals in the city were ordered to evacuate as the aftershocks between magnitudes 1.3 and 4.4 were felt following Thursday’s powerful tremor.
The professor also said more than 200 aftershocks took place across Istanbul following Thursday’s earthquake, which has revived concerns as to when the long-predicted big tremor will shake the country’s most crowded city. Istanbul has a population of about 15 million residents.
Data from Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) also shows 144 aftershocks happened in the Marmara Sea in the aftermath of Thursday’s quake with the most powerful one having a magnitude of 4.1.
Both Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader, and Ekrem Imamoglu, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor from CHP on Friday spoke to the press in Istanbul’s Disaster Coordination Center (AKOM).
“Most of the 2,859 public safe places do not answer to the description of a ‘safe place.’ We failed in Istanbul when it comes to assembly areas. We will work on this altogether,” Imamoglu promised.
Referring to Turkey’s 1999 earthquake, Kilicdaroglu questioned what happened to the earthquake tax the Turkish governments have been collecting since then.
A 7.4 earthquake hit Turkey’s northwest in 1999, killing more than 17,000 people with hundreds of them being in Istanbul.
“Eighty million people [of Turkey] have been paying those taxes wilfully. It was supposed to be used to make Istanbul’s risky territories earthquake-resistant. Now I cannot do without asking it: What happened to all those taxes? Where did they go?”
Emphasizing that those in power should be visionaries, Kilicdaroglu added: “Those who rule [Turkey] should find out how to free Istanbulites from the risks [caused by the earthquake]. From 1999 to 2019. It has been 20 years and we are still at the same point where we started.”
According to data released by the Natural Disasters Insurance Authority (DASK), earthquake insurance has not been taken out for nearly half of the houses in Turkey.
DASK indicated on Friday that only 9,247,865 of 17,662,690 houses in the country have earthquake insurances, which amounts to 52.4 percent. This figure increases to 62.9 percent in Istanbul, with 2,315,137 out of 3,682,450 houses in the city having earthquake insurance.