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Turkey has suffered from some of the worst earthquakes in the world. In August 1999, a 7.6 magnitude quake decimated the country, leaving more than 17,000 people dead and close to 45,000 injured. In the 21st century, quakes have hit sporadically in Turkey, killing hundreds.
Earthquakes are very hard to predict, but it's important to be prepared and know how to stay safe when traveling to destinations where earthquakes do happen.
Here's what you need to know about earthquakes in Turkey.
Turkey's main source of earthquake activity comes from a set of fault lines running across the north, from west to east, and concentrating southwest of Istanbul. This was the set that caused the major quake in 1999, and many others.
Click here to see a graph which details peak ground acceleration over the past 50 years in the Mediterranean. We won‘t go too deep into the science, but peak ground acceleration is essentially the measurement of how hard the earth shakes in a given area. All we need to say is that the really dark red bits are Turkey. And we all know that on any map, red usually does not equal anything good.
In the past 30 years, ten major earthquakes have been recorded in Turkey, claiming the lives of 20,173 people. During this time, they have occurred in clusters.
One hit in 1983, but the next would not wreck havoc until 1992 and 1995. Six quakes hit between 1998 and 2003, and another major quake struck in 2010. On Sunday 23 February 2020 a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck near the Turkish border with Iran, killing 9 people, injuring more than one hundred people and damaging thousands of buildings.
The high death toll from earthquakes in Turkey is partly due to poor architectural and material quality of some Turkish buildings. The government has acknowledged this and now imposes stricter building codes.
Like most things when you travel, it's all relative. You should worry more about motor safety than getting stuck in the thick of a Turkish earthquake. But on a simple level, it's the harrowing images of a devastating shake that stay with us on a visceral level – and it's those images that spark fear. The mundane idea of motoring, while it's actually a deadlier aspect of Turkey, just doesn't resonate in the same way.
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