As Quake Toll Surges, More Questions About 1999 Tax

More than 11K people confirmed dead
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2023 11:38 AM CST
As Quake Toll Surges, More Questions About 1999 Tax
Aerial photo shows the destruction in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023.   (Ahmet Akpolat/DIA via AP)

Wednesday's revised death toll placed the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday as the deadliest of the last decade. The Guardian reports 8,754 people have been confirmed dead in in Turkey, with the current toll in Syria at 2,470. Those roughly 11,200 deaths outpace the 8,800 victims of the quake of the same magnitude that struck in Nepal in 2015, reports the AP. The latest:

  • Earthquake tax. One criticism emerging in Turkey concerns an "earthquake tax" the government imposed in 1999 in the wake of a quake that killed 17,000. The 88 billion lira (equivalent to about $4.6 billion in today's dollars) was earmarked for disaster prevention and upgrades to emergency services, but the BBC reports the government has never detailed how the money has been spent.

  • More numbers. USA Today reports 10 Turkish provinces were impacted by the quake and the 7.5 magnitude quake that hit hours later, and that 13 million of Turkey's 86 million people have been impacted. In Syria, some 300,000 people in government-held parts of the nation have reportedly been displaced. The cold is a complicating factor for those who have lost their homes, with temps falling into the 20s. "We did not die from hunger or the earthquake, but we will die freezing from the cold," one 27-year-old said.
  • A standout quote. "The size and scale of the destruction our team has witnessed is difficult to describe," Dale Buckner, the CEO of US-based international security firm Global Guardian, tells USA Today. "Some infrastructure will never be replaced. The damage is so widespread it will be uninhabitable for years to come."
  • Literally unpredictable. Amid some social media buzz that a Dutch man predicted the quake a few days in advance, NPR reminds readers that the US Geological Survey has established that no scientist has "ever predicted a major earthquake," and the Atlantic artfully puts why it's just not possible. "As far as scientists can tell, quakes do not send up a flare before they tear the ground apart. Until these precursory signals are found—if they even exist—seismology will be predominantly a retrospective science. ... The best that hazard experts can offer, in seismically active, heavily instrumented, and extensively studied parts of the world, are very approximate probabilities."
(More Turkey-Syria earthquake stories.)

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