On 25th Feb, an Earthquake of 5.5 Magnitude hit Central Turkey at a depth of 10km. According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC), this is the 37th earthquake in Central Turkey in the past 66 hours. The first earthquake was felt on 6th February 2023, with a magnitude of 7.8 at 4:00 am. with the epicentre located near the city of Gaziantep in south-central Turkey. The tremor is not only felt in Turkey and Syria region, the devastation impacts other regions too, like, Cyprus (456 km away), Lebanon (874 km), Israel (1381 km) and Egypt (1,411 km).
In the past 100 years, this is the strongest earthquake felt by Turkey which killed more than 50,000 people across Turkey and Syria. The numbers are reaching high, more than 98,000 people are injured, several are still trapped in debris and thousands of homes were destroyed.
According to Vice President Fuat Otkay, it was reported that around 900 buildings were destroyed in Turkey’s Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras provinces. According to Raed Ahmed, the head of Syria’s National Earthquake Center, the earthquake that occurred on the cross-border belt connecting Aleppo and Hama to Diyarbakir, Turkey caused the collapse of all buildings in the area. This was the most significant earthquake ever recorded in the center’s history.
History of Earthquakes in Turkey
If we look into the history of earthquakes in Turkey, the list are quite long. Before 1990, Turkey has 24 earthquakes, during 1990 to 1999, around 42 felt in the region and in between 2000 till now, Turkey felt around 18 earthquakes. The way we are experiencing the earthquake, we can say that the number would reach high.
What are the Damages Turkey and Syria Faced?
The earthquake that occurred near Nurdağı and Gaziantep in Gaziantep Province, Turkey affected at least 10 provinces, including Adana, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Malatya, and Sanliurfa, and impacted 13 million of Turkey’s 85 million citizens. There were approximately 120 aftershocks reported. The earthquake also had a significant impact on Syrian cities like Aleppo, Hama, Idlib, and Latakia, which are already struggling with a humanitarian crisis that has left over 4 million people relying on aid. This adds to the misery of the region, which has been suffering from a 12-year conflict and refugee crisis. Turkey is a critical hub for NGOs providing humanitarian assistance to Syrians through cross-border operations, and it currently hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
The high magnitude earthquakes and harsh winter weather increased the risk of waterborne diseases. The earthquake in Turkey has resulted in hundreds of thousands of children and their families being without homes and therefore susceptible to illness, exploitation, and mistreatment.
Reports suggest that the situation in Syria is even more critical, with earthquake-induced devastation affecting areas controlled by both the government and opposition, which are struggling to cope with harsh winter conditions that impede the delivery of essential resources such as water, healthcare, and food. The Syrian Civil Defence, which operates in opposition-controlled areas, has declared a state of emergency and has appealed to the international community to help rescue civilians in Syria.
Why Seismic Activity is Rampant in Turkey & Syria?
Turkey’s high susceptibility to earthquakes is due to its location on the Anatolian tectonic plate, which is situated between the Eurasian and African plates. The North Anatolian fault (NAF) line, where the Eurasian and Anatolian tectonic plates meet, is particularly destructive and has caused catastrophic earthquakes in the past. The NAF stretches from Istanbul’s southern end to northeastern Turkey and is known to be one of the most well-understood fault systems globally. The British Archaeological Survey explains that sudden movement along the fault lines, which are fractures between two rocks, can cause earthquakes.
The East Anatolian fault line is another significant tectonic boundary that runs 650 kilometers from eastern Turkey into the Mediterranean, separating the Anatolian Plate from the northward-moving Arabian Plate. Additionally, the Aegean Sea Plate, which is situated under southern Greece and western Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, also contributes to seismic activity in the area. Roughly 95% of Turkey’s land area is prone to earthquakes, with approximately one-third of the country at a high risk level, including the regions around the major cities of Istanbul and Izmir and the East Anatolia area, according to an estimate.
Impact of Building Design and Construction on Earthquake Resilience in Turkey
In 1999, the Turkish government imposed an earthquake tax with the aim to prepare the building for earthquake related devastation. But it seems that the builders and corruption in the region ignored the rules and regulations, due to which in the recent earthquake, the building built with modern construction techniques can’t withstand the magnitude.
The viral photographs and video showed many of the buildings, including the building constructed in the past few years and the ongoing projects building were also collapsed. It raised a question against the government and the building authority who are not following the construction standards.
According to Prof David Alexander, an expert in emergency planning and management at University College London, “The maximum intensity for this earthquake was violent but not necessarily enough to bring well constructed buildings down”.
India and Other Countries Join International Rescue Efforts in Turkey and Syria After Devastating Earthquake
Turkey has issued a Level 4 alert for international aid, India is the first country to help earthquake affected regions, according to Turkish envoy Firat Sunel. To aid Turkey and Syria, the Government of India initiated rescue and search operations with the name of “Operation Dost”. In the evening of 6th February, India immediately sent C-17 to Adana and NDRF team along-with the specially trained dog squad. India has sent around Rs. 7 crore relief material and Drones which are capable of identifying trapped persons and also carry medicines and food to both Turkey and Syria.
Apart from India, several countries including the US, European Union, Russia, and Azerbaijan have reportedly sent aid to assist with the recovery efforts.