The epicenter of Turkey's next big earthquake is likely to occur under the Sea of Marmara, Professor Haluk Özener, director of the earthquake research center at Istanbul's Boğaziçi University, warned on Tuesday. The quake is projected to be at magnitude 7 at minimum.
Speaking at a conference on earthquake preparedness in big cities, the Director of the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute emphasized that Turkey was an earthquake-prone country and added that earthquakes are natural disasters, which cannot be prevented.
Özener stated that Turkey's Anatolian and Aegean tectonic plates were shifting to the West in a counterclockwise movement leading to an energy build up, which eventually causes the earthquakes.
"Because of this movement, 80-90 percent of Turkey is under immediate earthquake threat", he said.
Two magnitude 5.3 earthquakes rocked Turkey's western city of Çanakkale on Monday, no casualties and five minor injuries were reported.
The tremors, however, heavily damaged some 40 buildings, mostly houses in the villages near the epicenter, which was recorded as approximately 26 kilometers off the coast of Ayvacık. Authorities said some 11 villages were directly affected by the quake while the earthquake was felt in nearby cities too.
The Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) announced on Wednesday that Çanakkale has experienced a total of 500 earthquakes, mostly minor ones, in the past three days.
Turkey, which is situated on a number of active fault lines, was rocked by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 17, 1999 that killed thousands in Kocaeli, Adapazarı, Istanbul, Yalova and nearby towns in the northwest. .
Years after the disaster, Turkey has seen an overhaul of measures to prevent damage from earthquakes, such as compulsory earthquake insurance and campaigns to raise awareness and inform the public about earthquake preparedness.
Additionally, the government has undertaken the ambitious project of urban transformation. Old, crumbling buildings across the country are being demolished to make way for new, earthquake resistant buildings.
Scientists, however, do not rule out "a big one" which is expected to hit the Marmara region north of Çanakkale in the coming decades.