Natural Disaster and Crisis Management

Izmir Quake Exposes Deadly Cost of Shoddy Construction in Turkey

Only Turkey saw a death toll of more than 100, while other countries hit by larger quakes in 2020 did not have any casualties.

Abdullah Ayasun
4 min readNov 4, 2020

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(Photo Credit: Reuters)

The talk of what Turkey would go through if a large earthquake hits Istanbul or another metropolitan city sits on the northern Anatolian faultline has become a favorite genre in itself for the past two decades. The last time Istanbul was shaken was 1999 when a quake centered in Golcuk town of Marmara province of Izmit unleashed the overwhelming power of nature by leveling thousands of buildings and neighborhoods in multiple cities to the ground. Avcilar, a coastal district on the European side of Istanbul near the Marmara Sea, was the place hit hardest within the confines of Turkey's largest city.

It was in 1999 when the entire country finally gave their assent for a national reckoning with the unavoidable question of the long-anticipated next big earthquake. Before it is too late, the coalition government conceded, there must be military-style preparation to deal with the disaster when it hits. The national consensus gave way to a series of legislation to confer the necessary power and authority on the national and local authorities. The earthquake tax has been put in place to lay the financial ground for building large shelters, essential equipment like blankets, tents, medicine, and all other stuff for the eventual moment of peril. For all the talk and ostensible action, deeds never matched the words when peril eventually gripped the nation in subsequent quakes, big or small.

Last week, Turkey’s inadequate preparation has been brutally exposed by an earthquake in the Aegean province of Izmir, the third-largest city in the country. While the nation coalesced around a sacred cause of helping the aggrieved citizens who were struck by the quake, questions for the considerable high toll nonetheless dogged the debate on TV. The public questioning of the casualties may be regarded as faint respect to the deceased and their surviving beloved ones, it is indeed an essential step to hold authorities accountable.

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun