When an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 rocked southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria early on Monday morning local time, its tremor could be felt as far away as Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and the Palestinian territories.
The epicenter of the quake was located in southeastern Turkey. A second earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the moment magnitude scale, struck roughly 9 hours after the initial tremor.
Both of the central nations are still struggling from the severe effects of the Holocaust. More than 4,800 individuals have lost their lives as a direct result of the earthquakes, while tens of thousands more have been injured as a direct result of the earthquakes. There is now nothing left of the thousands of structures that were destroyed.
Even though earthquakes are rather common in this part of the world, experts say that the one that struck Turkey today was the most powerful and deadly one to strike the country in recent memory. This is what we know about it at this point.
Turkey Earthquakes—When and Where?
According to the United States Geological Survey, the first earthquake occurred in the city of Gaziantep in southern Turkey at 4:17 a.m. local time at a depth of around 11 miles. Gaziantep is located approximately 150 miles away from the border between Turkey and Syria. The second earthquake occurred at 1:24 local time and had a depth of six miles, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Its epicenter was located approximately 80 miles north of Gaziantep in the province of Kahramanmaras in Turkey.
According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency, the southern region of the country has been hit by at least 120 aftershocks since the initial earthquake (AFAD).
On the Local Magnitude Scale, How Big is a 7.8 Earthquake?
An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 or above is considered to be a “major earthquake,” and it has the potential to do significant damage. On the other hand, an earthquake with a magnitude of 2.5 or less is likely to go unnoticed. An earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 or above is regarded to be “great,” because it has the potential to wipe out entire communities.
The potential damage that can be produced by an earthquake is defined not only by its size and power, which are denoted by the magnitude of the earthquake but also by its depth (the shallower the earthquake, the more harmful it might be) and its closeness to population areas.
Susan Hough, a seismologist of the United States Geological Survey, compared the magnitude of the initial earthquake in Turkey to that of the Great Earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco, which was responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 people and the destruction of a large portion of the city.
Turkey and Syria—Earthquake-Prone?
Turkey has a fair number of earthquakes on a yearly basis. The majority of Turkey is located on the Anatolian Plate, which is bordered by two major fault lines: the North Anatolian fault, which runs across the middle of the nation from west to east, and the East Anatolian fault, which lies in the eastern part of the country. According to the Geological Society of London, the old location has been struck by multiple devastating earthquakes, one of which occurred in northeastern Turkey in 1939 and resulted in the deaths of 30,000 people.
According to the USGS, the original earthquake that occurred on Monday with a magnitude of 7.8 is thought to have taken place on either the East Anatolian fault zone or the Dead Sea transform fault zone.
What is the Extent of the Damage?
The number of fatalities has reached a staggering 4,800, and it is almost probable that this number will continue to grow as search and rescue operations continue. The World Health Organization has issued a warning that the number of fatalities might potentially approach 20,000. According to a report by the state-controlled news agency Anadolu, there have been 3,381 fatalities and a further 20,426 people have been injured as a result of the recent events in Turkey. In parts of Syria controlled by the government, there were a total of 711 deaths documented. Over 740 people have been confirmed dead in regions controlled by the opposition, according to civilian rescue services.
Even though the extent of the damage to the infrastructure is not yet completely understood, an official with AFAD named Orhan Tatar stated late Monday that more than 5,500 buildings had been destroyed. A tear sprang up on a runway at an airport that serves the southern section of the country.
Implications of Rarthquakes on Syrian Refugees
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations, the densely populated region in the northwestern corner of Syria that was hit by the earthquakes is already home to more than 4 million people who are dependent on humanitarian aid.
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Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria more than ten years ago, many are internally displaced persons who have made their way to areas that are held by the opposition. The territory is ruled by a number of different armed factions, which are extremely dependent on outside assistance, the majority of which is transported through Turkey.
At least 224 properties in northern Syria were reported to have been entirely destroyed by the United Nations on Monday, while at least 325 buildings were claimed to have been damaged. Raed al-Saleh, the leader of the Syrian Civil Defense resistance group also known as The White Helmets, stated on Tuesday that there are still hundreds of families buried beneath the wreckage.
Prior to the earthquakes that occurred on Monday, the region had already been dealing with an outbreak of cholera.
Caution Regarding Construction in Turkey
Turkey’s Union of Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) has been sounding the alarm on the lack of seismic infrastructure for quite some time now. Given that Turkey is located on the Anatolian Plate, it is only a matter of when, not if, damaging earthquakes will occur in the country.
Following a devastating earthquake that struck the country in 1999 and claimed the lives of approximately 17,000 people, the government at the time promised to reform the country’s earthquake infrastructure. Specifically, they pledged to create new construction standards and to strengthen existing buildings. The plan called for the selection of hundreds of urban areas to serve as designated evacuation points in the event of an emergency. According to a story by NPR in 2017, however, over the course of several decades, a proliferation of new developments undid a significant number of the anticipated enhancements to earthquake preparedness, and open-air evacuation zones were converted into high rises.
“This spot you see in front of us was a public green space, and after the 1999 earthquake, it was declared as a public gathering area,” a congressman named Gursel Tekin said at the time to NPR. “After the earthquake, it was recognized as a public meeting area.” “Unfortunately, all that remains of it now is a gigantic mountain made of concrete.”
After an earthquake of magnitude 5.9 struck near the end of 2022, TMMOB issued a statement declaring that “our country has failed in terms of what needed to be done before the earthquake.” This statement was issued in response to the aftermath of the earthquake.
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“It is essential that the design, construction, and inspection processes are carried out in a correct and vigorous way in order to ensure the safety of buildings against earthquakes,” the union noted, adding that site supervision “continues to be seen as a procedure on paper only.” In addition, the union stated that “it is essential that site supervision be seen as a procedure on paper only.” It is common knowledge that there are major flaws in each of these three pillars of safe construction, and these flaws manifest themselves in both legal and practical ways.
The Reaction of the World community to the Earthquakes
Erdoan has stated that 45 countries, in addition to NATO and the European Union, have reached out to Ankara with offers of aid. These countries include the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Israel, and even war-torn Ukraine.
Both President Erdoan and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria were contacted by Russian President Vladimir Putin via phone to receive assurances of help. Russia’s capital city, Moscow, is currently the most influential foreign force present in Syria.
Additionally, Cyprus has extended an offer to provide aid to Turkey, which is an unusual move coming from a country that Ankara has not recognized.
Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State of the United States, made the following statement on Monday: “Our initial assistance response to Turkey is already underway, and humanitarian groups in Syria backed by the United States are responding to the earthquakes’ consequences across the country.” In the following days, weeks, and months, we are resolved to do everything in our power to assist people who have been impacted by the recent earthquakes.
The European Union is going to have a crisis meeting on Monday evening in order to coordinate the various support measures that the bloc is going to take. It is sending out emergency mapping services as well as search and rescue personnel at this time.
How to Contribute and Assist Earthquake Victims?
The international community is actively working to help those in need. In order to contribute to disaster relief operations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has stated that it will be distributing “urgent cash assistance” from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund. In addition, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, which delivers medical assistance in areas of northern Syria controlled by the opposition, is making an urgent appeal for foreign assistance. A number of other charity groups, including Oxfam, Action for Humanity, CARE, and Human Appeal, have already begun fundraising efforts to support their own teams that are actively working on the ground.