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Seismologists Warn of Earthquake and Tsunami Danger in Istanbul

Istanbul earthquake tsunami
Most of the buildings in Istanbul are not earthquake resistant says a Greek seismologist. Credit: Juraj Patekar/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Earthquake and tsunami fever has gripped Istanbul since last year’s disaster in southern Turkey, as residents in Europe’s most populous city fear they could face similar devastation.

The city lies near the North Anatolia faultline, a geological danger that has seen Istanbul hit by at least 34 strong earthquakes over the last 2,000 years.

Authorities in Istanbul have placed tsunami warnings in several parts of the city and have been advising people on how best to protect themselves if the worst comes to the worst.

Earthquake and tsunami “can occur in Istanbul at any moment”

Memories are still fresh from the devasting 7.6 earthquake in 1999 when between 17,127 and 18,373 people died as a result.

“An earthquake can occur in Istanbul at any moment,” said Efthymios Lekkas, professor of Geology and Natural Disasters, speaking to ERT, citing the tsunami warning signs that have been posted in the city.

The Greek scientist who is the top seismologist in the country, noted, that only a third of the buildings are not particularly vulnerable in the city of 20 million inhabitants.

“We don’t know when the big tremor will come, maybe in five years” he noted and explained, “we are dealing with a huge faultline, the Anatolian fault, which has a length of about 1,500 kilometers from the Caspian to the Aegean, it is divided into 13 big pieces, 12 pieces have broken and given big earthquakes.

“The last piece expected to break is the one south of Istanbul, in the Gulf of Marmara. It was believed that an earthquake should have already occurred by 2020, but this earthquake did not occur. As time goes by the chances increase together with the probability of having a bigger size earthquake as the underground energy accumulates.”

He also warned about the possibility of a devasting tsunami. “There is a risk of a tsunami because the fault is very large around 60 kilometers and the Gulf of Marmara is a closed bay that could produce a tsunami of up to 10 meters,” he added.

Fault lines anticipated to rupture

The Greek professor’s dire predictions mirror those of a seismological expert who recently raised fears about the likelihood of a powerful earthquake and subsequent tsunami hitting Istanbul.

Yoshinori Moriwaki, a Japanese seismologist, issued a warning regarding the imminent danger faced by the city in June last year.

Moriwaki pointed out the presence of fault lines at the bottom of the Sea of Marmara, near Istanbul. He emphasized that these fault lines, located between Yalova and Silivri, are approximately 20 kilometers from Istanbul and are anticipated to rupture soon.

The seismologist predicted a magnitude 6.8 earthquake, with the possibility of even stronger tremors if multiple faults rupture simultaneously.

Moriwaki specifically highlighted that one fault passes directly beneath the stock exchange, while another runs beneath the city of Iznik. He further warned that seismic activity on the fault line between Inegol and the stock exchange is expected before a major earthquake occurs.

Drawing attention to the historical context, he noted that it has been 150 years since the last devastating earthquake in the region. Moreover, in Bandirma Bay area, several fault lines have remained inactive for over 250 years. Moriwaki stressed the importance of constructing new buildings and structures to withstand potential earthquakes.

Related: Are We Prepared for the Next Big Mediterranean Tsunami?

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