At the dawn of 6 February 2023, at Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, a disaster impacted millions of people’s livelihood while still asleep. A massive earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck Kahramanmaraş Province, Turkey, at 4:17 am local time. Besides various provinces in central and southern Turkey, the earthquake affected multiple northern and western Syria cities. Thus, the earthquake is named the Turkey-Syria earthquake or the Kahramanmaras earthquake, which is the strongest earthquake in Turkey since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake. Making matters worse, another follow-up earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 occurred at 1:24 pm. This article will cover the details of the earthquake, such as the damage, casualties, response, and many more.
The earthquake is located between 3 tectonic plates: Anatolian, Arabian, and African plates.
Earthquakes can be divided into three categories, foreshock, mainshock and aftershocks. Therefore, it is suspected that the earthquake originated from the East Anatolian Fault or the Dead Sea Transform. The East Anatolian Fault and Dead Sea Transform are called a fault zone, a zone where fractures between two blocks of rocks exist. As the blocks of rocks move rapidly along the fault, the movement causes seismic waves that causes the ground to shake, also known as an earthquake.
Foreshocks are minor earthquakes before the mainshock, while the mainshock is the largest earthquake in a sequence. Finally, aftershocks are also minor earthquakes that come after the mainshocks. In the Turkey-Syria earthquake, there were 2 foreshocks, one with a magnitude of 4.3 on the 29th of January and another with a magnitude of 4.2 on the 3rd of February. On the other hand, there were over 10,000 aftershocks recorded within 3 weeks after the main earthquake, with the highest aftershocks reaching a magnitude of 7.7.
Damage and Casualties In Turkey and Syria
With Turkey and Syria combined, the earthquake has killed over 50,000 people, with an additional estimate of 122,500 people being injured. However, this death toll is not final yet, as victims are still being discovered under the rubble. Some important figures that had passed away due to the earthquake include Sıtkı Güvenç, the former MP for Kahramanmaraş, and Adıyaman Yakup Taş, a member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Besides the death toll, an estimated 4 million buildings from both countries are damaged. These buildings include apartments, housing, and even historical sites. Critical historical sights such as the Yeni Camil mosque had its ceiling collapse, causing damage to the building. Similarly, the earthquake destroyed certain areas of Gaziantep Castle and Liberation Mosque, causing debris and dust to be scattered everywhere.
Another critical aspect of the earthquakes is the damage done to the airports. A few airports were closed or have significantly reduced their services due to the earthquake. For instance, Adana Şakirpaşa Airport, located at Adana, was closed due to a damaged runway. On the other hand, Gaziantep Oğuzeli Airport was still functional, but it was heavily restricted, allowing only a few planes to land. As a result of the closed airports, rescue flights were slowed down due to the unavailable landing space for the rescue planes.
Collateral country damages
The repercussions of the disastrous earthquake did not end at the borders of Turkey and Syria. Following over 10,000 aftershocks, around the epicentre of the primary mainshock are miniature aftershocks produced that perpetually tremor, spreading themselves further to other areas until they dissolve gradually.
Countries as far as Lebanon were also harmed in the tragedy, with buildings violently shaking for up to 40 whole seconds non-stop, destroying structures of almost 30,660 in total. Residents were awakened at 4:17 am local time, lost their homes and had nowhere to return to when they fled their premises during the incident.
Other countries that suffered from the aftershocks of the earthquake include Israel. Buildings started to show cracks in pillars and ceiling dust began to fall, before it was clear what was happening. Located in Bnei Brak , the famous Champion Motors Tower was also reportedly wrecked. Egypt underwent the same traumatic experience as well when the earthquake created a 20 metre crack in the middle of Alexandria, along with frightening tremors in their capital city, Cairo.
Amidst the calamity, tens of thousands of people were displaced from their homes, leaving them to seek shelter wherever they could with their surviving families.
By declaring a 3-month emergency to reestablish the country, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan attempted to make several hotels in Antalya, Alanya and Mersin accessible to the victims that require lodgings to rest and recover. Residents were also welcomed into mosques, shopping malls and stadiums that provided sanctuary and other basic necessities. The Syria Trust for Development declared sanctuary in many establishments like lodges in Latakia and Damascus and universities like Al-Sham Private University. The Mobile kitchens travel throughout Turkey and Syria serving meals to those unable to provide for themselves, and those in need of medical and surgical equipment can find them in mobile clinics moving all around the country. Airbus A400M and C-130 Hercules are military grade aircrafts that were also included in search and rescue operations. Besides that, the president also requested Turkish Airlines to open up free flights from many provinces in hopes of allowing citizen volunteers to come and help with restoring and rehabilitating the country. They would enter and inspect broken buildings and assist in distributing foods, blankets and first aid essentials to the affected.
With numerous major airports’ runways completely wrecked, unexpected bad weather conditions, collapsed buildings and many other factors have made it hard for search and rescue to do their job. But many foreign countries and agencies have stepped up to offer humanitarian aid to the victims. Afghanistan’s Taliban administration and Malteser International of Germany provided $166,000 and $1.1 million respectively for rebuilding costs to Turkey and Syria, lessening their economic issue caused by the earthquake. Countless countries including China, Austria, Greece, Israel, Japan and more had military soldiers, rescue workers, firefighters in large teams supplied with medical relief materials dispatched to Turkey and Syria. Moreso, experienced doctors and structural engineers arrived sharing help to mend the countries and their people back to their original state. The National Disaster Response Force of India even had personnel with their trained canine squad as rescue dogs to sniff out more of those in need of aid.
While many are undergoing their loss of families and homes, the governments of Turkey and Syria cannot afford to rest even a day as the hefty amount of casualties prove unending work in healing their countries. With charitable systems and fundraising campaigns held up, the rest of us can always contribute help by donating too. Recovery of Turkey and Syria’s ruins can be ensured to happen speedily with every pinch of support and encouragement they receive.
Written by: Daniel and Ryan
Edited by: Poorani