Turkish Marmara 1999 Earthquake - 6 Years on
Turkey Slow to Recover After 1999 Earthquake
By Duran Savas, Dilek Hayirli
Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Six years have passed since the Marmara Earthquake, which hit the Marmara region in 1999. During the course of time, no remarkable studies have been conducted to fortify Istanbul’s buildings against earthquakes. Tens of thousands of people still live in houses damaged by the quake.

A total of 17,000 people lost their lives in the Koaceli and Duzce earthquakes of 17 August 1999. Although six years have passed, the necessary lessons have not been learnt. Preparations for responding to natural disasters are extremely insufficient in Turkey, where 93 percent of the country is at risk of earthquakes. Approximately 25,000 people still live in earthquake damaged houses in Sakarya where traces of 1999 quake have not yet been cleared. There are 2,191 heavy damaged houses waiting to be destroyed and 4,622 partially damaged houses waiting to be repaired in the city. While there are 1,000 partially damaged houses in Kocaeli, this figure is 300 for the Yalova region.

Organizing an ”Earthquake Meeting ” in 2004, the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement extended the duration for the repairs of partially damaged houses until the end of the year. Poor citizens carrying green cards, (cards given to poor people without any social security benefits) live in the 38 percent of the 780 houses in Kocaeli, while retired people live in 21 percent and squatters live in 10 percent. The public does not show any interest in the obligatory earthquake insurance when purchasing houses or gaining building licenses. Only 2,193,798 from the total of 20,201,165 houses in Turkey have the obligatory earthquake insurance policy.

Due to some gaps in the law, courts cannot work effectively. Only four of the lawsuits were concluded with convictions in Sakarya from the 600 lawsuits filed after the quake. Following victims’ cases, lawyer Sebahattin Yilmaz says the accused are sentenced with just one month to eight months of imprisonment in most cases

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