Turkey’s earthquakes are well documented. Crossed by the Northern and Eastern Anatolian fault lines, the country is squeezed between two giant plates.
Although quakes are relatively frequent, most are minor. However, in the last fifteen years the country has been hit by four earthquakes of 6.0 or more on the Richter scale, the deadliest being the 1999 Izmir-centred 7.4 quake which left more than 17,000 dead and many more homeless.
Thanks to Turkey’s rapid urbanisation and expanding cities, the potential for massive earthquake casualties is greater than ever. Sadly, the casualties will mostly likely be Turkey’s poor. As more and more people move to the cities for work and a better life, the demand for cheap housing grows. Unfortunately, not all developers adhere to Turkey’s strict building regulations, greasing palms and taking shortcuts to make a fast buck. The resulting housing is often ramshackle and poor quality – and liable to collapse at the smallest tremor. It was Turkey’s poor who suffered the greatest loss and injury during the 1999 quake.
After the Izmir quake the Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool (TCIP) was established to make sure that in the future the country was safeguarded against the massive cost of reconstruction, without the need for international aid. Together with the World Bank, the TCIP set up a nationwide insurance policy.
Now in its tenth year, the policy, which had been growing each year, has experienced a significant reduction in purchases.
Of Turkey’s 13 million private homes, only 25 per cent have up-to-date TCIP policies. Fethiye property owners top the list with almost 46 per cent of homes holding a valid policy. This is thought to be due to its relatively wealthy population, many of whom are foreigners who are used to the idea of insurance.
How can you safeguard yourself against earthquake loss?
- Take out a TCIP policy.
- Check your developer thoroughly to make sure they have adhered to the latest building regulations
- Buy new build – older properties may not adhere to regulations. If this is the case, you may not be able to get an insurance policy.
What to do during an earthquake
• If you are inside a building, move no more than a few steps, drop, cover and hold
• If you are outside, move no more than a few steps, then drop, cover and hold
• If you are driving, pull over and stop
• If you are at the beach or near the coast, drop, cover and hold then move to higher ground immediately in case a tsunami follows the quake
After an earthquake
• You should expect to feel aftershocks
• Help those around you if you can
• If you are in a damaged building, try to get outside and find a safe, open place
• Do not go sightseeing to look at the damage the earthquake has caused
• If you smell gas, try and turn off the gas main outside the building if it is safe to do so
• If you see sparks, broken wires or evidence of electrical system damage, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box if it is safe to do so
• If your property is damaged, take notes and photographs for insurance purposes