Public urged not to panic after back-to-back earthquakes in Istanbul

A POWERFUL earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale shook Istanbul on Thursday lunchtime,  causing people to rush on to the streets in panic. It was the city’s second major earthquake in as many days.

About a dozen people were injured, but there were no known casualties. However, some structural damage has been reported, including to the minaret of a mosque in Avcılar, a town near Silivri, which is close to the epicentre of the quake.

The Turkish authorities said the earthquake struck in the Marmara Sea, in the southwest of Istanbul, around 2pm local time. It was at a depth of 11.9 km, according to the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute.

A 4.1 aftershock also struck the city some 25 minutes later. Many other aftershocks of smaller magnitudes continued to shake the city throughout the day, including one measuring 3.9 at around 11pm in the evening.

More tremors are predicted. The authorities have urged people to check for structural damage and not return to any damaged buildings.

Three days ago, Istanbul experienced a 4.6 magnitude earthquake, again off the coast of Silivri.  That tremor was followed by at least 15 aftershocks.

The quakes have created concern among many Istanbullus, who only recently commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the huge Izmit earthquake. Taking place in the middle of the night on 17 August 1999 and measuring 7.4, the 40-second shake killed more than 17,000 people and left 250,000 people homeless.

With predictions of another huge quake set to hit Istanbul this century, many fear the current crop of earthquakes are nature’s way of warning that a “big one’ is imminent. However, experts have tried to allay such fears.

Fadime Sertçelik

Professor Fadime Sertçelik, head of the Seismology Department at Kocaeli University, said the Istanbul earthquake is not “a portent” of a big earthquake.

Speaking at an international earthquake symposium in the city on Wednesday, Sertçelik said the earthquake was not “extraordinary” for a country where about 1,000 earthquakes occur every month.

“It was a small earthquake and there wasn’t any extraordinary [earth] activity before it. Of course, people panicked remembering the big earthquake of 1999, but this was something that [we] should not be worried [about]. This is the regular activity of fault lines all across Turkey.

“Certainly, it should teach us one lesson and that is, never forget the fact that the earthquakes will occur here and we should take measures, like reinforcing the buildings we live and learn what to do in case of an earthquake,” she said.