Turkey - Earthquakes

Source Document: Nuray Karanci, Canay Doğulu, Gozde Ikizer, Dilek Ozceylan-Aubrecht. 2014-12-31. Earthquakes in Turkey. Deliverable 5.3. Work Package 5

In the Turkish case study, community resilience pertinent to different phases of the disaster risk management cycle was evaluated with field work in  two case sites, one with a recent earthquake experience (Van, 2011) and the other having a more remote experience (Adapazari/Sakarya, 1999). The focus was on evaluating how community and individual psychological resilience was perceived by individuals from the community, members of non-governmental organizations, local governmental institutions, and municipalities. Furthermore, the long-term recovery processes and how resilience of the systems changes over time were evaluated in the context of earthquakes experienced in different geographical regions of Turkey and in different time periods. 

The central research question was “Which factors are perceived by individuals with a recent and remote earthquake experience as affecting community and individual resilience to earthquakes?”. The research aimed to cover the perceptions of resources and capacities, action, and learning elements of the main refined framework for resilience (Deliverable 6.6). 

In-depth interviews with 90 disaster survivors and members from relevant institutions, and eight focus-group interviews with staff of local public institutions, NGOs, and other related institutions in the two case sites were conducted and the results from these methods were subjected to qualitative analysis. Furthermore, in order to evaluate individual psychological resilience, a survey instrument was developed and administered to 360 disaster survivors in Van. A participatory assessment workshop was also conducted in Van to get feedback from local stakeholders on possible community resilience indicators obtained from the qualitative data (interviews and focus groups) obtained from the case site as well as to determine factors for successful implementation of the indicators.

In the full case study report, firstly, the case study work is introduced with a general background along with research questions and motivation for the case study. Then, the context of the case study is explained where the overview of the earthquakes in the two case sites is given in addition to the socio-demographic context of the two sites and the risk governance setting in general. Then, methodological approaches used in the case study work for individual psychological resilience and individuals’ perception of resilience are explained. The report then proceeds with the main findings of the case study work which are discussed based on the elements of the main refined framework. This discussion is followed with the identification of central indicators for assessing community resilience in the light of the case study findings. Finally, a summary of the case study report is given with conclusions drawn from the findings. The report ends with annexes presenting all the different case study work in  the two sites (Annex 1, case study in Van; Annex 2, case study in Adapazari/Sakarya).      

The results of the qualitative and quantitative analysis provided a rich variety of indicators which were mainly on resources and capacities elements of the refined emBRACE framework. Socio-political and human resources and capacities appeared to be more pronounced indicators, however, indicators related to financial, physical, and natural resources and capacities were also obtained. Political peace and equality appeared as a context defining indicator. The vast number of indicators obtained seemed to support the resources and capacities element of the framework, some of them specifically relating to the action elements whereas some of them being more general indicators of community resilience.


Regarding the hindering factors in disaster preparedness and prevention phases, participants pointed out several issues but mainly highlighted lack of earthquake awareness of the community and the need to increase it through education in early school years. Another concern that was pointed out as a hindering factor was the safety of buildings. Due to lack of political will and legal enforcement damaged buildings still stand 15 years after the 1999 earthquake and this has not been addressed well enough by the local officials. Instead, newcomers and university students who have no earthquake experience in the city now live in those houses. On the other hand, there are also no correct reports about building conditions in the city. Having no urban development plan was also mentioned as a hindering factor during the focus group discussions. Lack of economic sources, materials, and staff were also listed by participants as hindering factors. Answers also focused on response activities. This might be related to the general understanding of earthquake readiness in the society (reactive approach tendency). Participants also listed hindering factors in that sense as disorganized response activities, coordination problems, lack of central authority, conflict among institutions, political problems, lack of cooperation, unfair resource allocation to different cities, and not being prepared to disasters.

Concerning the facilitating factors in disaster preparedness and prevention phases, particularly, establishment of new initiatives such as the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the National Medical Rescue Organization, and some other search and rescue organizations were appreciated. Particularly, AFAD’s support to other institutions through trainings (e.g., Provincial Directorate of Family and Social Policies, NGOs, etc.) has been well received by the focus group participants. Another facilitating factor that was mentioned was the awareness raising programs and informative meetings regarding disaster preparedness. Through the Neighborhood Disaster Volunteer Programme and some other initiatives, many were trained and became volunteers. Increased health facility capacity of the city was also reported as another facilitating factor during the discussions.   

Regarding the characterization of a disaster resilient community, several issues were raised by the focus group participants. Disaster experience, earthquake awareness, and earthquake resistant buildings were perceived as important characteristics of a disaster resilient society. Participants’ evaluation on how to become a disaster resilient community was generally about being an experienced and earthquake-aware society, being prepared, having legislation properly implemented addressing earthquake risk mitigation, discarding damaged building stock, making urban transformation and renewal happen, transmitting the lessons-learnt via witnesses, and taking precautionary measures at the individual level.

According to participants, Adapazari is resilient. Having faith, fatalism, strong family ties, and social solidarity were perceived as positive characteristics of the community to increase resilience.  Although physical structure is generally considered safer than before and people are more sensitive to safer living spaces, there were also comments on damaged building stock in the city and ongoing risk. 

Regarding the impact of the 1999 earthquake on the potential consequences of a future earthquake, participants had a consensus on the view that the 1999 Marmara earthquake may positively influence the consequences of a potential future earthquake. Participants seemed to agree that the society has become experienced about earthquakes and more earthquake-aware and psychologically ready. These were perceived as facilitating factors to possibly reduce overall vulnerability of people. Nonetheless, there were concerns over lack of earthquake preparedness. 

The focus group discussions on societal learning and changes in Adapazari revealed both positive and negative conclusions. First of all, participants seemed to have an agreement on the value of societal learning. Generally, comments focused on the importance of safeness of living spaces, having disaster-related experience, helping each other and social solidarity. Regarding the negative changes in the society, participants stated that psychological problems increased. Another observed change was regarding religious values. It was mentioned that there was a tendency towards being religious immediately after the earthquake, as time went by it changed and people got back to their normal daily order.

Maureen Fordham,
Sep 23, 2015, 6:04 AM