Van registered a magnitude 4.7 earthquake today at 20:47. Nothing like Japan’s magnitude 9 Godzilla, of course. Still, having “sat” through smaller ones over the years in Ankara and Istanbul, it makes me nervous. In Istanbul, I think it was in 1998, I was on the fourth floor of a high-rise when it started swaying. No buildings came down then, but I remember the impossibility of getting out. Furthermore, I made the potentially fatal mistake of first running to the bedroom to get my fieldnotes!
The following year, after I had already left the country, a quake of 7.6 magnitude hit just west of Istanbul in Izmit, killing 17,000 people (some estimates put the number of dead at 45,000), an equal number injured, and half a million people left homeless. Istanbul hasn’t been hit by a major quake since 1766, but a series of large quakes — Van, Izmit — have been heading down the North Anatolian fault in its direction. According to Tom Parsons, a geophysicist with the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in Menlo Park, California,there is a 30–60% chance of a magnitude 7 or greater quake close to Istanbul in the next 25 years. (click here) I wonder if all the newly gentrified areas are earthquake-resistant.