Earthquake jitters drive exodus from Istanbul

Earthquake jitters drive exodus from Istanbul
Residents across Istanbul are unsure just how resistant their city would be should a 'big one' hit. / A.Savin, WikiCommons
By bne IntelIiNews March 2, 2023

Inhabitants of Istanbul are deserting the city in droves or joining the many relocating within its bounds amid earthquake jitters.

The catastrophic twin earthquakes that hit 11 provinces of southern and southeastern Turkey nearly a month ago, killing tens of thousands of people, have served as a terrible reminder that seismology experts have for decades viewed Istanbul, a metropolis of 16mn people, as highly vulnerable to a devastating earthquake that could strike at any time. Some experts believe a major earthquake with its epicentre in the inland Marmara Sea is probable. Istanbul is located between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea.

Many residents of districts in Istanbul seen as most exposed to the impacts of a huge earthquake have decided to get away from Turkey’s largest city altogether or relocate to areas believed to be safer should there be major tremors, the manager of a moving company told business daily Ekonomi.

“This is supposed to be a low season for us. Companies [who provide moving services] would receive two or three calls a day normally, but this time round they are getting up to 25 requests each day,” Ali Ayilmazdir, president of END, an association which represents moving companies in Istanbul, was quoted as saying.

He added: “This movement of people is taking place between all districts, but particularly in the European side [of the city]. People say they are worried that their buildings are too old to stand up to an earthquake.”

Great numbers of residents, meanwhile, are demanding that the city government check their buildings for earthquake-resistance. Shoddy building practices, which contractors were able to get away with due to corruption, laxity or incompetence on the part of authorities, are widely blamed for the shocking death toll caused by the February 6 earthquake disaster, which also struck northern Syria.

“Depending on the results of those inspections, we expect more people to relocate in the period ahead,” Ayilmazdir said.

Some Istanbul residents are retreating to their summer houses on the Aegean coast, while others are moving to the nearby provinces of Kocaeli and Izmit, the owner of a moving company told the daily.

Hakan Aydogan, president of the Real Estate Consultants’ Association, referred to an Istanbul study by Ipsos that showed up to 70% of survey respondents said they wanted to move to a safer apartment.

“Presently, only those who can afford to move are moving from one district to another or to different cities,” he added.