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Istanbul earthquake hits 200 thousand buildings and 3 million people

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A team from the Istanbul metropolitan municipality submitted a report to parliament on Thursday on the fallout from a potential earthquake in the capital, revealing catastrophic forecasts.

The report was jointly prepared by the municipalities of Avcilar and Esenler region in Istanbul and submitted to the Parliamentary Committee on Earthquake Measures. It revealed that 200,000 buildings will suffer medium or high-level damage, which is likely to affect around 3 million Istanbul residents.

Istanbul, with a population of over 15 million, is the most populated city in Turkey and is constantly at risk of earthquakes. Multiple studies show that the city will inevitably suffer from one strong earthquake, and experts warn that it is not a matter of “if” but “when”.

A recent municipality report said that the number of structurally unsound buildings has risen dramatically. While it quadrupled in Avcilar, the number doubled in the remote Silivri district.

There are about 1.16 million buildings in Istanbul, and a possible earthquake will make at least 20% of them unusable, while some of them will collapse, said Tayfun Kahraman of the Department of Urban Transformation in Istanbul Municipality.

Kahraman indicated that 48,000 buildings are expected to be severely damaged in the earthquake, adding that the infrastructure for water and gas delivery will also face problems.

The earthquake will inflict approximately 120 billion Turkish liras ($ 17 billion) in economic losses. Of course, this number will be increased with more effects. Because this earthquake will affect the entire Turkish economy. I hope we will not face such a situation in Istanbul.

The report suggested improving Istanbul’s infrastructure and transportation network, including highways, bridges and bridges. It also recommended developing a road map for drinking water and utilities and a strategy for its distribution.

Kahraman said that the municipality has already prepared a groundwater map in Istanbul, and is working on a system to link this groundwater with temporary housing areas.

Speaking during the presentation, Ibrahim Aslan, Director of the Urban Transformation Department at Esenler Municipalities, said that most of the buildings in the area were constructed during the era of migration from rural areas to major cities in the 1970s and 1980s without proper engineering and planning. He added that the average building age in the neighborhood is 33.

Istanbul was hit by an earthquake of 5.8 magnitude in 2019, the largest in recent memory. Although the tremors were minor, they were enough to push people onto the streets, as memories of the 1999 earthquake are still fresh. Many spent a few nights outside before the aftershocks faded.

Turkey has suffered from devastating earthquakes in the past, including the 7.4 magnitude earthquake in Gilguk in 1999. More than 17,000 people were killed in the greater region. The country is among the most seismically active in the world located on several active fault lines, the most destructive of which is the North Anatolian Fault (NAF), the meeting point of the Anatolian and Eurasian tectonic plates.

The Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning already has an ambitious nationwide project to improve building and safety standards for 689,658 homes, shops and offices.

Over the past eight years, the Ministry has evacuated or demolished 673,000 of those units, while work continues on the remaining buildings.

The government has allocated more than 15 billion Turkish liras ($ 2 billion) for “urban transformation” projects that covered nearly 5 million people in more than 1.3 million housing units. The operation aims to provide safe homes for at least 45% of the population.

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