In 1999, the magnitude 7.6 quake devastated part of northwest Turkey, not far from Istanbul [~70 km (43 mi) away from the earthquake's epicenter]. The 37 seconds shaking killed about 17,000 people and left 250,000 homeless. This unfortunate event was a wake-up call for the nation. Twenty years later, northwest Turkey is still under the threat of a major quake. Prof. Polat Gulkan and I studied six plausible earthquake scenarios that may impact Istanbul directly due to the rupturing of Marmara Sea submarine faults. We compared the ground shaking from these scenarios with the actual magnitude 7.6 Izmit event.
Our most frightening finding is that the West of the Istanbul Metropolitan area is expected to be shaken more than three times as it did during the Izmit earthquake. This part of the metropolitan including Atakoy, Bakirkoy and Avcilar districts experienced significant damage mainly due to the strong amplification of ground shaking from underlying soft sediments during the 1999 event.
The elevated earthquake risk for the Istanbul Metropolitan is not different than other big U.S. cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle.
Because the earthquake's impact is so sudden, our response should be as quick as possible too. Today, technology reached a tipping point that revolutionary AI, advanced sensor technology and cloud-computing allow us to respond to earthquake disasters rapidly. By instrumenting buildings, bridges, dams and other infrastructure with sensors, and by using real-time data analytics, we can lessen much of the impact and suffer from earthquakes.
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