The North Anatolian fault line running across the Marmara region of Turkey is capable of generating a magnitude 7 or above earthquake at any given time in the next 30 years. The fault line is right under Istanbul, the cultural and economic engine of Turkey and a world heritage site. The city is 3,000 years old and home to 16 million people. Experts say a major earthquake here will cause unthinkable destruction if the city is not ready in time.
In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck the Marmara region of Turkey, killing at least 17,000 people. It also ruptured some parts of the North Anatolian fault line, creating a time bomb under the city of Istanbul.
Experts warn that a magnitude 7 or above earthquake could strike the city at any given time in the next 30 years.
According to Istanbul municipality’s estimations, at least 250,000 buildings will face moderate to severe damage, threatening the lives of 16 million residents living in the metropolis.
“We are not ready,” said Naci Gorur, a geologist and professor at Istanbul Technical University. “I’m afraid an earthquake in Istanbul will cause even more destruction than what we witnessed in the Kahramanmaras earthquake that struck Turkey’s south in February 2023.”
Istanbul suffers from densely populated areas with a problematic building stock. The government believes rebuilding the entire city is the only solution.
But critics say rebuilding efforts are mostly concentrated in profitable areas, favoring the country’s construction industry.
“We cannot keep building anywhere and everywhere just because it will sell. There is absolutely no control for urban expansion and density” said Yasemin Didem Aktas, a structural engineer from University College London.
“It’s not a question of if but when” said Osman Ozbulut, a professor of civil engineering at University of Virginia. “We need to start designing buildings to a higher standard if we want to be ready.”
Watch the video above to understand how a mega city prepares for a major disaster.