By Mehtap Yilmaz, Hanife Sevinc, Yildiz Aktas and Ugur Aslanhan
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey on Friday marked 20 years since the devastating 1999 earthquake in Turkey's Marmara region, which took some 17,000 lives on Aug. 17.
The Marmara earthquake caused a great economic loss, damaging 30,000 businesses and 200 billion Turkish liras (around $36 billion), according to the Connected Business initiative (CBi) Turkey platform, established by the UN Development Programme and Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TURKONFED) last November.
Haluk Ozener, the director of Bogazici University Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute in Istanbul, said the tragedy raised awareness to take precautions against future disasters.
The seabed seismometers which are 1,200 meter (0.64 nautical miles) deep in the sea are being tracked 24/7, Ozener told Anadolu Agency.
"We know how powerful a potential earthquake will be, we may experience one or more earthquakes with magnitude over 7, but we don't know the exact time when they will occur," he said.
There are 240 seismic stations in the Marmara region and that earthquakes were monitored with over 450 observation networks throughout the country, he stated.
"Marmara [region] is important because the population is very dense [there] and it is the center of economy.
"Istanbul [in the Marmara region] is a city with a population of 16 million and with seven or eight provinces around it. The metropolis will be affected heavily in an earthquake that may occur in the Marmara Sea," Ozener said.
Ozener emphasized that the fault line across the Marmara Sea is observed to be non-homogeneous in the recent years.
"We see that the fault line consists of a fragmented structure, some of which are more seismically active, some of which are calmer, some of which cause more shallow earthquakes, and some parts cause deeper earthquakes," he said.
He said that earthquakes between the magnitude of 7.2 and 7.3 can have a huge difference in terms of the energy for scientists and that any earthquake more powerful than magnitude 7 can be devastating.
Celal Kologlu from Turkey's Construction Industrialists Employers Union (INTES) said that there are millions of unsafe building stocks in Turkey.
"More than 90% of our land is at risk of earthquakes, our big cities are located on first and second degree seismic zones. We cannot change this fact," Kologlu said.
Underscoring that awareness should be raised over the issue in the society, Kologlu also said risk maps should be created to minimize the risks by the earthquakes.
Turkey’s Search and Rescue Association (AKUT) official Murat Boz complained that people are not aware enough to take essential precautions and make necessary preparations before disasters knock the door.
Boz stated that around 63% of Turkish people are afraid of earthquake, fire and flood, even so 55% of the society has no preparation for the earthquakes.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Marmara earthquake, the CBi released a report for SMEs -- small and medium-sized enterprises -- to inform them about risks and priorities.
According to the report, the earthquake affected large factories as well as SMEs that constitute the backbone of the economy.
The aim is to reduce the risks posed by natural disasters to Turkey's economy, as well as to accelerate the recovery time in case of a potential impact and to prepare the SMEs -- mostly affected in the areas of facilities, equipment, labor, provision of enterprises in the supply chain and infrastructure services -- against the potential risks
According to the report of an investigation committee of Turkish parliament on earthquakes in 2010, a total of 17,480 people died at the earthquake and around 45,000 were injured.
The earthquake had caused the sixth largest economic loss as compared to other quakes during the period between 1900 and 2009, with an estimated loss of $20 billion, according to the Emergency Events Database’s website.
*Writing and contribution by Dilara Hamit