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Earthquakes in Turkey

Last Updated on April 30, 2019

The territory of the Turkish Republic covers active earthquake zones. Over the centuries, earthquakes have occurred periodically, some of them devastating.

The October 23, 2011 earthquake that hit Van and Erciş in eastern Turkey took the lives of hundreds, wounded thousands, and left much of those cities in ruins.

Between the years 1903 and 1999 there were 58 major earthquakes in Turkey. More than 100,000 people died as a result, over 150,000 were wounded, and 420,000 buildings and homes were destroyed.

The most destructive earthquake of the past century was the devastating Erzincan quake of December 28-29, 1939, which killed 39,000 people and leveled the city. It measured 7.8 on the Richter scale.

I’ve experienced tremors in Turkey, from little ones that rattled the plates in the kitchen rack of my apartment in Istanbul, to one that shook my whole apartment building in Izmir.

California, Chile, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and many other areas of the world experience earthquakes periodically, without warning. As a traveler, should you worry?

Probably not. Like most sudden shocks (traffic accident, heart failure, violent attack), it depends on luck. 99.999999% of the time, 99.99999% of the people in the world are not affected.

However, if you hear about an earthquake at a destination you were planning to visit, don’t cancel or postpone your trip without finding out which areas were affected. For example, the 2011 Van earthquake affected that city and several towns nearby, but had zero effect on any of the places that foreign visitors usually go.

I was in Turkey when that earthquake struck. I was in Kaş, on the Mediterranean coast, 1,650 km (1,025 miles) west of Van, about the same distance as between Copenhagen, Denmark and Florence (Firenze), Italy, or between New York City and Tallahassee, Florida. Everyone in western, central, northern and southern Turkey found out about the quake the same way the rest of the world did: news reports.

Places 100 km away from the epicenter may have felt it, but places 1000 km away certainly didn’t. Stay out of the affected area and you can still have an enjoyable, fulfilling travel experience, and the people at your destination will appreciate your coming.


Van Earthquake 2011

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