Shaken to the core: Turkey’s latest earthquake unleashes devastation

by Junhyeok Hong (’24) | March 10, 2023

Art by Marisea Fisher (’24)

On February 6, a powerful magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred near Nurdağı, Turkey. It struck within 100 kilometers of an important fault line, causing serious damage to buildings near the fault. The quake was followed by a magnitude 6.7 aftershock eleven minutes later, and a magnitude 7.5 temblor struck about nine hours later. In total, there were around 200 aftershocks. The tremors were felt all across the region, and rescue workers have been tirelessly sifting through the debris in an effort to locate survivors. 

The earthquake occurred around 4:17 a.m. local time. Its epicenter was about twenty-five kilometers east of the city of Nurdağı, with a depth of 24.1 kilometers. The movement of the East Anatolian Fault from the earthquake caused surface ruptures, shifting numerous fault segments in the Anatolian Fault zone. It is estimated that around 185 miles of fault length ruptured and that segments of the fault slid over thirty feet. 

Due to the time of its occurrence, the damage from this earthquake was especially destructive. It occurred early in the morning, which meant that most people were asleep or in their houses and were effectively trapped. Additionally, the cold and snowy weather in the region has made rescues and recovery attempts in the affected areas more challenging. This earthquake is one of the deadliest tremors of the 21st century, with only four earthquakes with greater magnitude occurring in the past twenty years. 

But this is not the first major earthquake Turkey has experienced. In 1999, Turkey was hit with a 7.6 magnitude earthquake approximately 11 kilometers southeast of Izmit. The damage was horrific, as more than 17,000 people died and even more were displaced. Subsequently, the Turkish government implemented building regulations and mandatory earthquake insurance systems to prevent similar tragedies in the future. However, many of the buildings affected by the recent earthquake were constructed before the year 2000, which means the newly established seismic standards were not implemented in their construction. In addition, government corruption has diverted earthquake safety funds from their intended purpose. Thus, buildings affected by this tremor were unable to withstand the shocks from the earthquake. 

The loss of lives from the earthquake in Turkey reminds everyone of the need for precautions and preparations against earthquakes in order to minimize the damage and keep people safe. But more importantly, the earthquake highlights the need for systemic efforts to improve infrastructure. It is imperative that governments and organizations take action to ensure that future tragedies are prevented and that people around the world are all prepared for earthquakes. As rescue and rebuilding efforts continue, the world stands in solidarity with the people of Turkey.

Categories: Science

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