ISTANBUL, Aug 14 (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake could kill up to 90,000 people if it struck Turkey's biggest city Istanbul, which has suffered devastating quakes in the past, a report published by the city's municipality said on Thursday ... [the report] said 70,000-90,000 would be killed in the case of a quake of 7.5 or 7.7 magnitude.
A multinational team of engineers and earth scientists has concluded that many buildings in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, are dangerously vulnerable to earthquake damage. The researchers have recently carried their message to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and are pushing for immediate action to prepare for potential disaster.
The researchers formed their conclusions in June during an extensive, five-day meeting on the risks facing Istanbul, a city of 12 million residents. The researchers analyzed seismic data and historical information as part of the effort, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Since that time, the researchers have completed a report with numerous, urgent recommendations and recently presented their findings to the Turkish prime minister, members of his cabinet and their consultants this past November.
The team reiterated concerns that an earthquake with a Richter magnitude of 6.8 to 7.5 is likely to strike the city of Istanbul at some point over the next two to three decades. Because much of the infrastructure in that city was not designed for earthquake resistance, the researchers believe a large quake could kill thousands of people and collapse as many as 50,000 buildings - if not more.
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"There will be tremendous demands on the emergency response and hospital systems," Irfanoglu said. "We need to make sure that hospitals remain operational. Well-performing school buildings, besides the crucial fact that they would assure the safety of kids, could be used as shelters and emergency response centers after the earthquake."
Engineers also recommended that Turkey develop a communications system for emergency personnel that would function properly during such a catastrophe. Another critical need is to develop an educational program for construction and engineering professionals detailing how to retrofit and properly design buildings to resist the stresses imposed by earthquakes.