Geological Disasters in Türkiye in 2021

Nehir Varol
Assistant Professor, Ankara University Disaster Management Implementation and Research Center - AFAM

Natural disasters occur frequently in Türkiye because of its geological, geographical and climatic characteristics. Unfortunately, we experienced loss of lives and properties to a great extent due to high levels of physical and social fragility in some regions, overpopulation, and unplanned settlement.

Four natural disasters that occurred in Türkiye were listed on the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT) records in 2021. Three of them were geological and meteorological floods and landslides, the other one was the forest fires that occurred in the south and west regions of the country. While not listed on the EM-DAT records, flood and landslide disasters in Rize, Giresun, Tekirdağ, Artvin and Kars, and storms that affected Istanbul and Kocaeli should be on the records too.

Monthly precipitation within eight hours in 2 February, led multiple homes and workplaces to submerge as a result of streams overflowing in Menderes, Izmir. The flood, in which 2 people died, resulted in the evacuation of submerged housings within the 500 square meter area for safety reasons as a result of Balaban Stream overflowing. People who reside in the evacuated housings were provided with accommodation in hotels and guesthouses until the danger passed.

One person died, and one person was saved as a result of the Aksu Stream in Duroğlu, Giresun overflowing. Two children died, and one child was injured after being caught up in the flood that occurred as a result of the excessive precipitation and drifting into the water channel. Following the excessive downpour in 14 July, 82 village roads were closed due to landslide in Ardeşen, Pazar, Çayeli and Güneysu districts of Rize. 27,000 households could not be supplied with electricity during the flood and landslide disasters in which eight people died and five people were injured. A week after the flood and landslide in Rize, another flood occurred in Murgul, Artvin 21 July due to excessive precipitation, and one person died. Landslides that occurred on village roads resulted in transportation inconveniences. Thousands of animals died and thousands of decares of agricultural lands were damaged after the flood that occurred as a result of the hail and rainfall in Başkale, Van. Two people, who were stuck on the road due to the landslide in Van-Hakkari Road, were rescued, some workplaces and housings were damaged, and many stables were destroyed.

One person died in the flood that occurred due to downpours in Sarıkamış, Kars, on 10 August. The flood in which 6 vehicles and 40 housings were damaged resulted in landslides in 10 different regions, and the Yedisu-Karlıova Road was closed to traffic.

Between 10-12 August, rainfall per square meter was recorded as “two thirds of the annual rainfall” in some districts of Kastamonu, Sinop and Bartın which are located in the West Black Sea Region. 82 people died, and 228 were injured in floods and landslides. Kastamonu, Sinop and Bartın were declared as disaster areas after these incidents.

Air and sea water temperatures being above seasonal normals resulted in precipitation regime alterations and this situation increased the risk of unexpected floods and landslides with the impacts of climate change in various regions of the world in 2021. The West Black Sea Region of Türkiye is especially fragile in terms of floods and landslides due to its geological-geomorphological characteristics, and climatic factors. Short-term and unexpected rainfalls in the spring in the West Black Sea Region caused floods and landslide disasters to occur, which resulted in loss of lives and properties. The Black Sea Region witnessed its second hottest summer in the last 50 years because of the impacts of climate change. Highest precipitation rates of the last 91 years were recorded in Kastamonu and Sinop. However, climate change is not the only reason why disasters occur. It is a well-known fact that unplanned and disaster vulnerable settlements in stream beds and valley bottoms increase the intensity of disasters.

Humans play an important role in floods and landslides to become disasters that are so intense that they result in loss of lives and properties. Floods and landslides in 2021

reminded us how important disaster resilient settlement planning is. Disaster risks will be eliminated if settlement planning is created with an approach that considers dangers and risks, and aims to prevent disasters and to reduce the damage caused by them.

16 people died, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forestlands and residential areas burned in 299 forest fires -15 of them being wildfires- in 2021 in 54 provinces of the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara, West Black Sea, South-East Regions. 7 people, and more than two thousand livestock died in Manavgat, Antalya fires that broke out on 29 July. In fires that broke out on 29 July in Marmaris, Milas and Köyceğiz districts of Muğla, 9 people died, and thousands of locals and tourists were evicted via land and sea means due to the fact that the fires spread to residential areas. Being responded to with 18 firefighting planes, 68 helicopters, 9 drones (UAV), an unmanned helicopter, 850 water tenders, 430 heavy equipment, and 5,250 personnel; fires were brought fully under control after 10 days.

The storm that affected Istanbul and Kocaeli on 29 October led to the death of 5 people and 38 injured. The roofs of some buildings were ripped off and trees and posts were overturned due to the south-west wind with a speed reaching 129 km/h. 

Eight earthquakes with magnitudes over 5.0 occurred in 2021 where floods, landslides and fires occurred.

Erzurum, its districts, and nearby cities felt the Erzurum earthquake with magnitude MI=5.2 in October. Moderate earthquakes with magnitude MI=5.2 in Düzce, MI=5.2 in Malatya and MI=4.9 in Konya were felt in these cities, and nearby cities. Kütahya and nearby cities felt the moderate earthquake that occurred on 31 August in Kütahya at 14:04 local time. A slightly strong earthquake with magnitude MI=5.3 occurred on 25 July in Kuşbayırı-Karakoçan, Elazığ at 21:28 local time, and Elazığ and nearby cities felt the earthquake. Earthquake with magnitude MI=5.0 occurred on 31 August in Aydınlar-Altıntaş, Kütahya at 14:04 local time, and Kütahya, its districts and nearby cities felt the earthquake. Moderate earthquake with magnitude MI=5.3 occurred on 13 April in Dodecanase (12 Islands)-Mediterranean at 23:28 local time, and Muğla and its districts felt the earthquake.

Reducing Disaster Risks and TARAP

Disasters with different intensities and magnitudes result in loss of lives and properties, and they pose a threat to sustainable development in Türkiye as well as all over the world. While disaster management strategies concentrated on disaster response around the 1970-1980s, the approach shifted in the 1990s and strategies started concentrating on disaster preparedness. As a result of the shift from a reactive approach to proactive planning for natural disasters, a common understanding emerged that we should learn our lessons from past disasters across the world and concentrate on disaster preparedness. The most apparent example of this is the Sendai Framework, which was adopted at the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015. The Sendai Framework will be valid until 2030. Disaster risk reduction requires the long-term efforts of all segments of society. The success resulting from these efforts is dependent on strategic goals being attained, the implementation of set goals and actions in time and in correspondence with the priorities, being adopted by authorized and relevant institutions, all shareholders working in coordination with each other, and proper use and direction of resources. Disaster management strategies started concentrating on pre-disaster activities in Türkiye after the Marmara earthquake in 1999. The most current advancement related to these activities is the Türkiye Disaster Risk Reduction Plan (TARAP) which has been valid since 2017, and was completed as of late 2021. It has become the most significant indicator of Türkiye’s disaster policy which prioritizes risk in disaster management.

The Türkiye Disaster Risk Reduction Plan (TARAP) is a sustainable plan which defines activities that should be carried out in order to minimize disaster risks, and defines people in charge and their liabilities within the frame of a certain process.

The aim is to build sustainable, self-sustained, disaster resilient settlements, to ensure maximum risk reduction by using resources efficiently with the help of TARAP. Accordingly, disaster related losses will be minimized through building resilient societies and secure living spaces. Provincial Level Disaster Risk Reduction Plan (IRAP) launched by the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) is a plan involving aims, objectives, and actions to reduce disaster risks. It formed a basis for TARAP aims, objectives, and actions by integrating the actions in completed IRAPs in 81 provinces.

Internationally acknowledged strategic priorities in the Sendai Framework (2015-2030) constitutes the strategic priorities of TARAP. Every strategic priority involves the definitions of aims, objectives, actions, organizations authorized to implement them, and related institutions and organizations that will support the authorized organization. Moreover, short, moderate, and long terms given to related and authorized organizations are specified.

In the light of the TARAP Policy Paper, the implementation of risk reduction actions stated in IRAPs in 81 provinces will contribute to the prevention and reduction of disaster risks in Türkiye. Preventing loss of lives and properties, and preventing natural events to become disasters is only possible with risk reduction activities before disasters.

1. Anadolu Agency (2 January 2021). İzmir’de kuvvetli yağışın ardından yaralar sarılıyor.

2. Turkish State Meteorological Service (22 October 2021). 2021 yılı ağustos ayı alansal yağış raporu. https://

3. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, General Directorate of Forestry (13 August 2021). Tüm orman yangınları kontrol altında. https://

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