1999 İzmit earthquake

During the summer of 1999, Turkey was hit by a series of earthquakes. The mainshock of the İzmit earthquake, also known as the Kocaeli earthquake or Gölcük earthquake,[6] occurred on August 17, with its epicenter located in İzmit, with a moment magnitude of 7.6 and maximum Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme). The shaking lasted 37 seconds, causing great damage to the area and many casualties.

1999 İzmit earthquake
Izmit eart6.jpg
1999 İzmit earthquake is located in Marmara
1999 İzmit earthquake
1999 İzmit earthquake is located in Turkey
1999 İzmit earthquake
UTC time1999-08-17 00:01:38
ISC event1655218
Local date17 August 1999 (1999-08-17)
Local time03:01
Duration37 seconds[1]
Magnitude7.6 Mw[2][3]
7.4 ML[4]
Depth15.0 km (9.3 mi)[2]
Epicenter40°44′53″N 29°51′50″E / 40.748°N 29.864°E / 40.748; 29.864Coordinates: 40°44′53″N 29°51′50″E / 40.748°N 29.864°E / 40.748; 29.864
FaultNorth Anatolian Fault
Areas affectedTurkey
Total damage3–8.5 billion USD[3]
Max. intensityX (Extreme)[5]
Peak acceleration0.3–0.4 g[1]
Tsunami2.52 m (8.3 ft)[3]
Casualties17,118–17,127 dead[3]
43,953–50,000 injured[3]

The 1999 earthquake was part of a sequence along the North Anatolian Fault that started in 1939, causing large earthquakes that moved progressively from east to west over a period of 60 years.[7]


The earthquake occurred along the western portion of the North Anatolian Fault Zone (NAFZ), which is a right-lateral strike-slip fault. Strike-slip faults are characterized by horizontal movement along a vertical fault plane. The Anatolian Plate, which consists primarily of Turkey, is being pushed west about 2–2.5 cm (0.79–0.98 in) a year, as it is squeezed between the Eurasian Plate to the north and the Arabian Plate to the south.[8] Major earthquakes in Turkey result mainly from slip along the NAFZ or the East Anatolian Fault.

The rupture length of the Izmit earthquake 150 kilometers (93 mi) extending from Düzce all the way to the Sea of Marmara along the Gulf of İzmit. The quake occurred from a right-lateral, strike slip motion, where offsets along the rupture ranged from 1.5 to 5 meters long, some were as large as 5.7 meters (19 feet) along the fault break.[9][10]

From the timing of P-wave and S-wave arrivals at seismometers, there is strong evidence that the rupture propagated eastwards from the epicenter at speeds in excess of the S-wave velocity, making this a supershear earthquake.[11]


Destruction in Istanbul was concentrated in the Avcılar district to the west of the city. Avcılar was built on relatively weak ground, mainly composed of poorly consolidated Cenozoic sedimentary rocks, which makes this district vulnerable to any earthquake.[12]

Damage from the Izmit earthquake

The earthquake was heavily felt in the industrialized and densely populated urban area of the country, including oil refineries, several automotive plants, and the Turkish navy headquarters and arsenal in Gölcük, increasing the severity of the loss of life and property. The earthquake also caused considerable damage in Istanbul, about 70 kilometres (43 mi) away from the earthquake's epicenter.[1]

An official Turkish estimate of 19 October 1999 placed the toll at 17,127 killed and 43,953 injured, but many sources suggest the actual figure may have been closer to 45,000 dead and a similar number injured.[13] Reports from September 1999 show that 120,000 poorly engineered houses were damaged beyond repair[14] and approximately 20,000 buildings collapsed, resulting in more than 250,000 people becoming homeless after the earthquake.[15] Private contractors faced backlash for using cheap materials in their construction of residential buildings. Many of these contractors were prosecuted but few were found guilty. Government officials also faced backlash for not properly enforcing earthquake resistant building codes.[16] Direct cost of damages is estimated at $6.5 billion US dollars, but secondary costs could exceed $20 billion.[17]

There was extensive damage to several bridges and other structures on the Trans-European Motorway (European route E80), including 20 viaducts, 5 tunnels, and some overpasses. Damage ranged from spalling concrete to total deck collapse.[18]


The earthquake sparked a disastrous fire at the Tüpraş petroleum refinery. The fire began at a state-owned tank farm and was initiated by naphtha that had spilled from a holding tank. Breakage in water pipelines, results of the quake, nullified attempts at extinguishing the fire. Aircraft were called in to douse the flames with foam. The fire spread over the next few days, warranting the evacuation of the area within three miles of the refinery. The fire was declared under control five days later after claiming at least seventeen tanks and untold amounts of complex piping.[19]

Due to the fire, people within 2 to 3 miles near the refinery needed to evacuate even though some areas were still in the process of search and rescue of people under collapsed buildings.[20]


The earthquake caused a tsunami in the Sea of Marmara that was about 1 to 2.5 meters high.[21] The highest runup was at Golcuk with the height of 4 meters, and it caused damage to the naval base facilities nearby.[22] The two tsunami waves caused the deaths of 155 people, houses were flooded, and boats, mussels, and people were displaced.[23] The areas with the most damage include Kirazliyali, Sirinyali, Yarimca, Korfez, and Tupras. In some households in Kirazliyali, the wave reached the second floor of houses and flooded basements, which led to costly household damages.[24] Additionally in Sirinyali, seabed materials were carried by the waves into homes, breaking their windows and doors.[25]


A massive international response was mounted to assist in digging for survivors and assisting the wounded and homeless. Rescue teams were dispatched within 24–48 hours of the disaster, and the assistance to the survivors was channeled through NGOs and the Red Crescent and local search and rescue organizations.

USGS ShakeMap showing the intensity of the event

The following table shows the breakdown of rescue teams by country in the affected locations:

Location Foreign Search and Rescue Teams From:
Gölcük, Kocaeli Hungary, Israel, France, South Korea, Belgium, Russia
Yalova Germany, Hungary, Israel, Poland,[26] United Kingdom, France, Japan, Austria, Romania, South Korea
Avcılar, Istanbul Greece, Germany
İzmit, Kocaeli Russia, Hungary, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, United States, Iceland, South Korea
Sakarya Bulgaria, Egypt, Germany, Spain
Düzce Poland,[26] United Kingdom
Bayrampaşa, Istanbul Italy
Kartal, Istanbul Azerbaijan

Search and Rescue Effort as of 19 August 1999. Source: USAID[27]

In total, rescue teams from twelve countries assisted in the rescue effort.

Greece was the first state to offer assistance to Turkey which helped ease relations between the two countries.[28]

Oil Spill Response Limited were activated by BP to deploy from the United Kingdom to the Tüpraş Refinery where their responders successfully contained the previously uncontrolled discharge of oil from the site into the sea.[29]

A rescue dog in action

The U.K. announced an immediate grant of £50,000 to help the Turkish Red Crescent, while the International Red Cross and Red Crescent pledged £4.5 million to help victims. Blankets, medical supplies and food were flown from Stansted airport. Engineers from Thames Water went to help restore water supplies.[30] India also assisted by providing 32,000 tents and 2 million rupees to help in the reconstruction process.[citation needed]

US President Bill Clinton[31] and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif later visited Istanbul and İzmit to examine the level of destruction and meet with the survivors.[citation needed]

Future riskEdit

The 1999 Earthquake Museum in Adapazarı

Istanbul, the most populated city in Turkey, lies along the North Anatolian Fault line as well, making it at very high risk to an earthquake disaster. Following the seism in 1999, there was a great urgency for the government to mitigate these risks. With the help of organizations like the World Bank, hundreds of buildings have been retrofitted and reconstructed, and thousands of citizens have been trained in disaster preparedness.[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Barka, A. (1999), "The 17 August 1999 Izmit Earthquake", Science, 285 (5435): 1858–1859, doi:10.1126/science.285.5435.1858, S2CID 129752499
  2. ^ a b ISC (2014), ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue (1900–2009), Version 1.05, International Seismological Centre
  3. ^ a b c d e USGS (September 4, 2009), PAGER-CAT Earthquake Catalog, Version 2008_06.1, United States Geological Survey
  4. ^ "The Izmit, Turkey Earthquake of August 17, 1999" (PDF).
  5. ^ National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service (NGDC/WDS) (1972). "Significant Earthquake Database" (Data Set). National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA. doi:10.7289/V5TD9V7K.
  6. ^ "İzmit earthquake of 1999 | Turkey | Britannica". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-11-17.
  7. ^ "The North Anatolian Fault | Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory". www.ldeo.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2021-11-03.
  8. ^ USGS (June 18, 2012). "Tectonic summary". Historic Earthquakes Magnitude 7.6 TURKEY 1999 August 17 00:01:39 UTC. Archived from the original on 2013-06-27. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  9. ^ Reilinger, R.E.; Ergintav S.; Bürgmann R.; McClusky S.; Lenk O.; Barka A.; Gurkan O.; Hearn L.; Feigl K.L.; Cakmak R.; Aktug B.; Ozener H. & Töksoz M.N. (2000). "Coseismic and Postseismic Fault Slip for the 17 August 1999, M = 7.5, Izmit, Turkey Earthquake" (PDF). Science. 289 (5484): 1519–1524. Bibcode:2000Sci...289.1519R. doi:10.1126/science.289.5484.1519. PMID 10968782.
  10. ^ "GSA Today - 1999 Izmit, Turkey Earthquake Was No Surprise". geosociety.org. Retrieved 2021-11-17.
  11. ^ Bouchon, M.; M.-P. Bouin; H. Karabulut; M. N. Toksöz; M. Dietrich; A. J. Rosakis (2001). "How Fast is Rupture During an Earthquake ? New Insights from the 1999 Turkey Earthquakes" (PDF). Geophys. Res. Lett. 28 (14): 2723–2726. Bibcode:2001GeoRL..28.2723B. doi:10.1029/2001GL013112.
  12. ^ Ergin, M.; Özalaybey S.; Aktar A. & Yalçin M.N. (2004). "Site amplification at Avcılar, Istanbul" (PDF). Tectonophysics. 391 (1–4): 335. Bibcode:2004Tectp.391..335E. doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2004.07.021.
  13. ^ Marza, Vasile I. (2004). "On the death toll of the 1999 Izmit (Turkey) major earthquake" (PDF). ESC General Assembly Papers, Potsdam: European Seismological Commission. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2008. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Ajansı, İlke Haber (17 August 2020). "Today marks the 21st anniversary of Marmara Earthquake". İLKHA (in Turkish). Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  15. ^ Gurenko, Eugene; Lester, Rodney; Mahul, Olivier; Gonulal, Serap Oguz (2006). Earthquake Insurance in Turkey: History of the Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool. World Bank Publications. p. 1. ISBN 9780821365847.
  16. ^ "İzmit earthquake of 1999 | Turkey". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-10-13.
  17. ^ "GSA Today - 1999 Izmit, Turkey Earthquake Was No Surprise". geosociety.org. Retrieved 2021-11-29.
  18. ^ Lusas software, "Seismic Assessment of the Mustafa Inan Viaduct"
  19. ^ Scawthorn; Eidinger; Schiff, eds. (2005). Fire Following Earthquake. Reston, VA: ASCE, NFPA. ISBN 9780784407394. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28.
  20. ^ J., Scawthorn, Charles. Eidinger, John M. Schiff, Anshel (2005). Fire following earthquake. American Society of Civil Engineers. ISBN 0-7844-0739-8. OCLC 55044755.
  21. ^ Altinok, Y.; Tinti, S.; Alpar, B.; Yalçiner, A. C.; Ersoy, Ş; Bortolucci, E.; Armigliato, A. (2001-09-01). "The Tsunami of August 17, 1999 in Izmit Bay, Turkey". Natural Hazards. 24 (2): 133–146. doi:10.1023/A:1011863610289. ISSN 1573-0840.
  22. ^ "17 August 1999, Mw 7.6, Sea of Marmara, Turkey". International Tsunami Information Center. Archived from the original on 2021-11-17. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  23. ^ National Geophysical Data Center. "Tsunami event". Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  24. ^ "Kocaeli, Turkey, Earthquake of August 17, 1999 Reconnaissance Report" (PDF). Earthquake Spectra. January 10, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2021.
  25. ^ Ersoy, Sukru; Alpar, B.; Armigliato, Alberto. "The Tsunami of August 17, 1999 in Izmit Bay, Turkey". Natural Hazards.
  26. ^ a b "Komenda Miejska Państwowej Straży Pożarnej w Nowym Sączu".
  27. ^ Tang, Alex K., ed. (2000). Izmit (Kocaeli), Turkey, earthquake of August 17, 1999 including Duzce Earthquake of November 12, 1999 Lifeline Performance. American Society of Civil Engineers. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-7844-0494-2.
  28. ^ "İzmit earthquake of 1999 | Turkey". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-10-13.
  29. ^ Girgin S. (2011). "The natech events during the 17 August 1999 Kocaeli earthquake: aftermath and lessons learned". Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. 11 (4): 1129–1140. Bibcode:2011NHESS..11.1129G. doi:10.5194/nhess-11-1129-2011.
  30. ^ "Case study: Izmit domestic and industrial water supply project responds to a massive earthquake in Turkey". wateronline.com. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  31. ^ "Bill Clinton visits İzmit, Turkey". Archived from the original on 2021-03-10. Retrieved 2017-06-24.
  32. ^ "Preparing for the Big One: Learning from Disaster in Turkey". World Bank. Retrieved 2021-11-30.

External linksEdit