Major earthquake swiftly approaching Istanbul, top earthquake scientist says

Recent seismic activity shows that a major tremor is imminent near Istanbul, Turkish news site Bianet quoted the director of one Turkey's top earthquake observatories as saying on Thursday.

"We do not know when it will happen, but unfortunately I can say that we are approaching the end quickly," Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute Director Haluk Özener said during a press statement.

Turkey's biggest city was hit by two earthquakes on Tuesday and Thursday, 4.8 and 5.8-magnitude tremors respectively.

Özener said the observatory was monitoring the seismic activity and had recorded over 200 aftershocks since yesterday.

"It is a scientific fact that the earthquakes in Marmara will be 7 magnitude or over that," Bianet quoted the scientist as saying in reference to the expected major tremor.

In the early hours of August 17, 1999, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale killed more than 17,000 people and left half a million people homeless in Istanbul and neighbouring cities of Kocaeli, Gölcük and Izmit.

Following the earthquake, a meeting on a national disaster response plan in Istanbul was held under the chairmanship of Vice President Fuat Oktay.

The Turkish interior minister, minister of environment and urban planning and several emergency bodies participated in the meeting, but the main opposition party's Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu did not attend.

Some Turkish media sources reported that he was not invited, but the mayor sidestepped questions on the meeting, saying only that officials from the municipality had attended.

Since the earthquake, a conflict has broken out between the Istanbul municipality and the government and the Istanbul governorate over who will be responsible for crisis management, according to investigative journalist Yıldıray Oğur.  Each side has established its own crisis desk, Oğur said.