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Recent changes in Turkish disasters policy: A strategical reorientation?

2000-06-24
Balamir, M
Early morning at 03:15 on the 17th of August 1999, the devastating 45 second 7.4 Richter value Marmara earthquake took more than 18,000 lives in Western Turkey, the more developed industrial heartland of the country.1 The event left 300,000 dwelling units and more than 50,000 business premises in debris, forcing a population of nearly 600,000 to seek emergency shelter. A second traumatic incidence of similar magnitude took place a step further east on the same fault line, only three months later on the 12th of November. The estimated losses are around 7–8 billion US$, more than a third of the annual total GNP of Turkey. Human suffering, social and psychological impacts of these events have been deep and lasting. The respectability of the public authorities was impaired, and the interests of the industry were seriously damaged, unlike many of the previous occurrences of equally grave disasters that took place at the distant eastern provinces. This generated a strong national consensus and will-power to devise new and effective methods of tackling with disasters. Since then, much effort and debate has been taking place in the political, official and academic circles to refresh the attitudes, methods of management, the structure of responsibilities, and revise the related legal framework.