Some 27 percent of Turkey’s population live in areas that carry the highest earthquake risk, Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdağ said on March 1.
“Some 26 of all buildings are also located in those areas,” Akdağ said during a symposium organized by the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) in Ankara on the occasion of “Earthquake Week.”
Akdağ said not all buildings situated in earthquake areas were under risk. The ones built before a certain period were the main ones to watch out for.
“The focus should be on improving existing buildings. Turkey has upgraded its ‘risk map’ and developed a software program that helps authorities assess potential risks in almost every land plot, information that helps to build safer buildings,” he said.
The minister also called on people to take out catastrophe insurance (DASK), noting that only 48 percent of houses are currently covered by the insurance scheme.
Akdağ reiterated that Istanbul had the highest risk.
Measures to mitigate risks
Areas that facilitate faster response to earthquakes will be created and the number of response teams will increase, Akdağ said, noting that the first 72 hours is crucial after disaster strikes and that proper logistics infrastructure should be in place for an effective response.
“The AFAD currently has well-trained 2,000 rescue personnel but this is not enough. Between 2018 and 2019 some 20,000 firefighters across the country will receive training to respond to natural disasters and other crises besides fires,” the minister said.
Akdağ mentioned efforts by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization and the Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) aimed at improving risk-prone buildings and called on citizens to support and take part in those efforts.
“People should be aware that houses built before 1990 are particularly under risk,” Akdağ said.
In November 2017, Environment and Urbanization Minister Mehmet Özhaseki warned of the danger of “mass casualties” in the event of a strong earthquake in İstanbul.
“Scientists say a massive earthquake will hit Istanbul at some point between 2030 and 2040. They say a 7.0 magnitude earthquake will strike Istanbul,” Özhaseki said at an event on Nov.28.