Istanbul earthquake — risk and early warning

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Published on February 21, 2021 by

Istanbul famously straddles two continents and lies in a risk zone of extreme tectonic tensions. Geologists fear the city will be hit by a particularly severe earthquake in the next few years – with devastating consequences.

Marco Bohnhoff is a seismologist with the German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam. He and his team are on their way to the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul, a city of 15 million inhabitants. With the help of several measuring stations, the scientist wants to develop a new type of early warning system for earthquakes in the region. In a best case scenario, it would send warning signals hours or even days in advance. The Anatolian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet directly below the Sea of Marmara, making the risk of earthquakes particularly high. In the case of a big tremor, Turkish disaster management authorities forecast at least 80,000 deaths. In the last few years, the city has been trying to become more earthquake-resistant, for example by tightening building regulations. However, the Chamber of Civil Engineers is skeptical, with chairman Cemal Gökce stressing: Not everything that is new is earthquake-proof. Seismologists such as Marco Bohnhoff, as well as disaster prevention experts and engineers, are working flat out to prepare Istanbul for future natural disasters by constructing special buildings and improving forecasting. Because it seems to be only a matter of time before the big quake comes.

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