Earthquakes have occurred in Istanbul for over 2000 years, but none has been
as damaging as "the big
to occur within the next 30 years.
Although ancient earthquakes did great
damage, none could compare with a 21st-century
quake because Istanbul today is a city
of more than 14 million people, many
living, working and going to school
in sub-standard buildings.
study by the US
Coast and Geodetic Survey puts the risk of
a major earthquake in Istanbul during
the next 30 years at 62%.
Many of the city's famed historical
monuments such as Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia)
and the Sultanahmet
(Blue) Mosque may
withstand the quake because they were
designed by earthquake-aware architects
and engineers, built soundly of quality
materials, and...they've already survived
several substantial earthquakes. In
many cases, reinforcements have been
added when damage from earlier quakes
has been repaired.
But many modern buildings, especially
smaller residential structures, were
designed and built by people with little
or no professional or technical
training or knowledge.
Kamondo mansion on the Golden Horn, Istanbul...
Even some more
substantial public and private buildings
were designed with construction speed
or profit, not earthquake survivability,
in mind. In place of high-quality construction-grade
sand and new steel, salt-laden beach
sand and steel from scrap may have
been used, leading to corrosion, weakening
and ultimately collapse.
A city well prepared for earthquake maintains large open areas (parks, playing fields, cemeteries, etc.) that can be used as assembly and emergency treatment areas in the event of an earthquake. In Istanbul, many areas designated for earthquake relief have been built over. Shopping malls are no good in an earthquake.
What can you, as a visitor, do to
protect yourself on a visit to Istanbul?
Earthquakes are by their nature sudden
and unpredictable. It's all over within
a minute or two, and you're left with
the result. There are some
things you can do. Crawling
under a sturdy desk or table, huddling in
a corner away from windows, moving
from beneath lighting fixtures, standing beneath
a sturdy load-bearing door lintel,
running away from tall structures, trees, towers or anything that can fall on you may
help to prevent immediate injury, but
that's only the beginning of the problem.
water, electric, gas and sewage lines leave the
immense population without essential
services but with perils from electrocution, explosion and disease. Fire-fighting becomes nearly
impossible just when it's needed most because streets are blocked by rubble and water mains have burst.
Food and medical supplies are disrupted,
policing is very difficult. Seismic waves may sweep across coastal areas.
For at least
the first 72 hours, you may be on
your own to supply all your needs for
food, water, shelter, medical help
With such a threat, should you visit
That's something you must decide.
As for me, I go to Istanbul all the
time, and I will continue to go. Many
places in the world face similar earthquake
dangers, including Alaska, California, China, Guatemala, Italy, Iran, Japan, Mexico,
Nepal, Pakistan, etc.
But we all face even greater dangers
every day—heart disease, auto accidents—and
think little of them. Look
at these common risks and dangers....
will The Big One hit?
The Golden Horn: will it be blown?