Case Study: 1999 East Marmara Earthquake

Key Issue: What social obstacles may we need to address?

One year after the 1999 Marmara Earthquake (Turkey), a team of sociologists examined the lives of people after the earthquake by interviewing 500 victims in temporary homes.

Shortly after the earthquake, many were opposed to the construction of temporary shelters out of fear that this might prevent more permanent construction. They feared that financial shortages would mean these temporary houses would become permanent. As construction began, pre-disaster class structures and social inequalities determined the speed in which permanent housing was established.

One year after the disaster, the researchers found that cigarette smoking, sleeping problems, heart palpitation, worries for the future, anger towards people and events, and the view that the world is not just increased significantly. It could be argued that the psychological impacts would have been worse if certain traditional religious values had not been strong in Turkey. The Turkish still strongly accept the justice of God.

About 40% of respondents demonstrated responsible behavior by taking precautions, joining a rescue organization, taking a first-aid course, or attending earthquake training meetings. Those who did not show responsible behavior believed that they didn’t have the economic power, applicable knowledge, or that it was the will of God.

The earthquake significantly influenced the fabric of society and the positions of most of the survivors that live in prefabricated temporary houses. The survivors lost their houses, shops and durable goods. They were forced to liquidate their savings and faced strong pressures of indebtedness. The loss of family members and increased health problems considerably influenced their potential to work. Pre-disaster social solidarity deteriorated. In addition, the problems of educating children increased.

The study raises a number of social obstacles that we may need to overcome. We will need to work with local contacts to understand the attitudes of the post-disaster Chilean community in order to truly empathize and design around their needs.

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