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Earthquakes in Turkey – What they may mean for the property market

by Admin posted in Blog on

Earthquakes in Turkey – What they may mean for the property market

It’s impossible as in the quiet early hours of February 6, as many slept when the skies were still dark. Fresh winter snow was falling outside when a devastating and terrifying natural disaster took less than a minute to change Turkey forever.

There had been much speculation about when the next large earthquake would strike. However, experts were suggesting it was the towns and cities around the Marmara Sea which should be sure they were better prepared.

Mock emergencies were even held to rehearse the services likely to be needed in and around Istanbul. Nationwide, telecommunication networks and community sirens were tested.

But, when it came, the next Big One struck where it was perhaps least expected. It was in the south-east close to the border with Syria along the East Anatolian Fault Lines.

Experts were already indicating the event had the potential to prove far worse than anything Turkey has witnessed since records began. But then a second quake struck at lunchtime too, almost as severe as the first.

What impact is this likely to have on the property market in the country? Should it deter those who were considering an investment, retiring in the sun, or making a fresh start?

There are no real answers. Only time will tell. But, if you were considering a move to Turkey or if you’re in the process of acquiring a property in the country right now, some facts may help.

The quakes

As February 6 unfolded, the casualty count rose quickly. In the aftermath of two such violent earthquakes, it was perhaps what everyone feared but anticipated nonetheless.However, it is also important to understand why.

First of all, experts have indicated these were substantial slip/strike earthquakes unprecedented in living memory in Turkey. In layman’s terms the two tectonic plates in this region face each other vertically and therefore seismic activity along the fault line tends to be lateral. This means it has the potential to be particularly damaging in built-up areas.

Examples are images of an airport in the region where a substantial crack split the runway. Some roads in the region are no longer aligned. The Roman castle above Gaziantep, which had withstood the ravages of several empires, was all but flattened in a few seconds.

In other words, this was an exceptional natural disaster.

Turkey experiences tremors every single day. By far the majority – even those large enough to be felt – do little or no damage. These represent an event which may not be equalled for centuries.

The location

The site of epicentre was also a factor which probably contributed to the scale of the damage reported.

Although not yet as popular with tourists as the Aegean or Mediterranean coasts, the regions around Gaziantep, Diyarbakir and Kahramanmaras are well populated. There may not be a huge metropolis but there are a number of large towns and cities in the region.

However, old communities have a higher proportion of homes, shops and offices not built to modern standards – and that means they’re more vulnerable to larger earthquakes.

The nature of these two tremors means they’re likely to have caused significant issues even in Ankara or Istanbul. However, along the country’s south-western borders, the potential for damage is perhaps more pronounced. These towns and cities have stood for longer, partly because seismic activity has been less prevalent – until now.

The timing

The day had been one of the coldest of the winter so far. A low pressure system from the north-west had swept across the country the day before. With it came thunderstorms and widespread snow, which was still falling as night fell.

At 4am, most people were in bed asleep – which meant far more were at risk from falling masonry or structural collapse when buildings were violently shaken from side to side for almost a minute.

There were stories of miraculous escapes. Many people fled into the streets in their slippers and pyjamas – but not everyone was able to get out in time. Rescuers know many trapped beneath the rubble will be dressed in nothing more than their nightclothes. Survival in sub-zero temperatures is therefore going to be even more of a challenge.

The second quake at lunchtime came as frantic attempts were made to reach the victims before conditions significantly reduced their chances. Tremors and aftershocks are bound to play with the nerves of all those working on the huge rescue operation.

What happens next?

 The good news is that help is on the way. Many nations have indicated they’re sending specialist teams to Turkey to help with the rescue work.

Also, it should be remembered, as one of the most seismically active regions in the world, Turkey has considerable experience in the recovery process. Izmir was the last cities to experience something similar back in 2020 and has already been redeveloping areas which were worst hit.

But many will be asking could this happen again and, if so, where?

The simple answer is that nobody knows. As the events of February 6 demonstrate, earthquakes are impossible to predict.

Scientists can monitor seismic activity, develop computer programmes which perhaps indicate areas which might be at risk – but tremors are not like the weather. We can’t see systems developing. It’s impossible to extrapolate their likely behaviour based on modelling. We can’t monitor their approach.

What we can do is be ready for their impact. We can develop construction techniques which allow buildings to be more resilient to tremors. We can make sure authorities and utilities also build infrastructures resistant to ground movement, that we have emergency plans which swing into action and that well-trained rescue teams are on standby.

How can we help?

Obviously, we’re estate agents rather than emergency planners though so, if you’re considering Turkey either for a property investment, a year-round home or perhaps for retirement, why not drop us a line of give us a call? We can also help with the administration and logistics or relocation.

Alternatively, feel free to browse our blog for previous posts you may find useful. If you’d like to check out our full portfolio, you can find details of properties currently on our books right here. You can also keep up to date with our Facebook page here.

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