Istanbul’s biggest threat doesn’t come from terrorists
In Istanbul, you’re still more likely to die in an earthquake than in a terrorist attack.
The city sits on an active fault line, and the rapid urbanization of the past 50 years means that millions of Istanbul residents live in hastily and cheaply constructed apartment buildings. Though estimates differ widely, many experts have warned that Istanbul has at least a 50 percent chance of suffering a massive earthquake in the next two decades. Given the city’s housing stock, a quake could kill over 50,000 people and leave another 500,000 without homes.
Seismologists regularly point out that earthquakes don’t kill people — buildings do. That’s why death tolls from earthquakes in poor countries like Haiti are so much higher than in similar earthquakes in California or Japan. Troublingly, most earthquake safety recommendations are designed for people living in well-built structures. In the absence of reliable advice, people in the most dangerous buildings are left to rely on potentially fatal misinformation.
The Turkish government has previously announced several campaigns to address the seismic risk Istanbul faces, though experts — perhaps inevitably — warn the plans are inadequate. And even with extensive precautions, a major earthquake would still take a devastating toll on Turkey as a whole.