TWPR, 21 (4) 1999
H. TARII< ~ENGDL
The Turkish earthquake:
An end to the 'neo-liberal state'?
Turkey has periodically experienced earthquakes throughout its territory-one
of the most risky earthquake zones of the world. Indeed, it is estimated that 85
per cent of the country is designated as being at risk, and the North Anatolian
fault that stretches from east to west across the country produces roughly
every five years earthquakes stronger than 6.5 on the Richter Scale. For this
reason, the earthquake in the early morning of 17 August 1999 hardly came as
a surprise. This event proved to be more dramatic than any previous one.
Measuring 7.4, this was a massive schism, in which land moved almost 3
metres in certain parts of the Marmara Region. This was also one of the most
severe quakes Turkey had experienced in terms of fatalities. While the
government finally declared the death toll to be about 16,000, the United
Nations estimates about 30,000 to 35,000. Injuries totalled 45,000, while
250,000 people were left homeless.
The human consequences of the disaster are not limited to the loss of lives.
Thousands of people, many living in tents months afterwards, remain in a state
of intense shock, mourning for lost families, relatives and friends. According to
experts, not less than half of the survivors will have to live with severe
Psychological problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder. The manifestations are already clear.
The scale of the disaster was great in economic terms too. The earthquake has
caused a serious setback to Turkey's economy, as the industrial cities in the
affected region produced more than one-third of the country's total output.
Some of the cities were hit so badly that their relocation appears a more viable
Strategy to the authorities rather than their rehabilitation.
At least two important criticisms have emerged in the wake of the earthquake;
they seem to have important implications for the future of the political system.
The first one is directed at the state for its failure to respond to the earthquake
H. Tank Sengul is an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies in the Department of Political
Science and Public Administration, Middle East Technical University, 06531, Ankara, Turkey.
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