8/17/99 Turkish Earthquake

Updated 9/9/99

The city of Izmet in northwestern Turkey was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 at 00:01 GMT 8/17/99. The body wave was reported at 7.8MB. The shallow focus of the quake (10km) intensified the ground motion and therefore increased the damage from the quake. 15,135 people have been confirmed dead, over 30,000 are estimated to be missing and over 23,000 injured. There have been hundreds of aftershocks, some of them over magnitude 5. International relief agencies from around the world provided aid aid, including dogs and equipment capable of locating people buried under rubble. In the days immediately after the quake aid was slow in arriving in the devastated area. Meanwhile people were clearing collapsed buildings by hand searching for survivors.

Turkey has strong earthquake building codes due to the frequency of earthquakes in the area. However, the government has not acted to enforce them and contractors have often not built to code. Investigations following the quake have found inadequate reinforcements in the concrete and inferior sea sand, resulting in weak buildings. Contractors have been charged with negligence causing death and some have fled to avoid arrest.

This area has a long history of earthquakes. There was a magnitude 8 quake in 1939 that killed 23,000 people. The quakes in this area are caused by pressure from the Arabian plate pushing north into the Eurasian plate from the southeast while the African plate pushes north from the southwest. The fault involved in this quake is a strike slip fault similar to the San Andreas Fault in California. Scientists are studying relationships between quakes in the two areas.

See also the following news stories: