Three consecutive earthquakes measuring 7.8, 7.6, and 6.0 magnitude on the Richter scale have devastated Turkey and Syria in recent days. Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) said at least 300 aftershocks have taken place in the country’s southern part, some of which witnessed as high as 6.7 magnitude. Two more earthquakes of 7.6 and 6.0 magnitude rocked the region nine and twelve hours later respectively.
Officials said at least 9,600 people died in Turkey and Syria following recent earthquake, which is the largest to hit the area in about 100 years. The initial 7.8 earthquake in the morning on Monday was similar to the 1939’s earthquake that hit northern Turkey and caused deaths to roughly 32,700 people.
Turkey’s Vice-President Fuat Oktay said late on Tuesday that “5,894 people had been killed in the quake, with another 34,810 had been injured and several remain trapped under rubble.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has alerted that the combined death number could reach 20,000.
You Can Also Read: Bangladesh to send rescue team to Türkiye amid third earthquake
The earthquake caused severe damages to roads, buildings, vehicles, shopping malls, and airports. Due to the magnitude of the earthquake, the runway at Hatay Airport in Turkey was torn apart. At least 10 cities have been damaged by the earthquake in Turkey, according to officials, and more than 2,818 buildings have been destroyed.
The walls and watch towers of the ancient stone castle, which dates back 2,200 years and sits atop a hill in the city center and was used as an observation point by the Romans, also collapsed. The renowned Yeni Mosque, which dates to the 13th century and was one of the most significant buildings in Maltaya, collapsed as well.
A country with frequent earthquake history?
Turkey is frequently jolted by earthquakes. Hence earthquakes are not uncommon in the country. AFAD reports that the region recorded around 33,000 earthquakes in 2020 alone, of which 332 earthquakes had magnitudes of 4.0 or greater. In the past year, nearly 22,000 earthquakes were recorded in Turkey.
There were 17 quakes from centuries with the magnitude being at least 7, including the earthquake in 1912 with a 7.3 magnitude, in 1930 with 7.2 to 7.5 magnitude, in 1939 with the magnitude of 7.8, in 1942 with 7 magnitude, in 1943 and 1944 with the same 7.5 magnitude, in 1953 with 7.2 magnitude, two earthquakes in 1957 with 7.1 magnitude, in 1964 with 7 magnitude, in 1967 and 1970 with the same magnitude of 7.2, in 1976 with 7.5 magnitude, in 1999 with 7.6 and 7.2 magnitude, in 2011 with 7.2 magnitude, and in 2020 with 7 magnitude prior to the latest one.
Few of those tremors had severe causalities including one of the deadliest earthquake in 1939 where 32,700 deaths were reported in Erzincan with 7.8 magnitude. Another disaster struck in August 1999, when the 7.4 magnitude quake hit the western city of Izmit, in the region of Marmara with almost 18,000 killed and over 45,000 injured. The 1976’s Caldiran-Muradiye quake in the eastern Van province had more than 4,000 deaths. Since 2000, Monday’s earthquake in Turkey has the highest causalities.
According to an estimate, about 95% of Turkey’s mainland is prone to earthquakes, and roughly a third of the country, including the areas around the main cities of Istanbul, Izmir and East Anatolia, is at high risk.
Turkey’s geographical positioning
The geological position of Turkey makes it a country vulnerable particularly to earthquakes. There are approximately 15 tectonic plates in the outermost layer of the Earth. The boundaries between these plates are a system of faults, which are fractures between two rocky blocks. According to the British Archaeological Survey, any unexpected movement along these faults might generate earthquakes.
Geographically, Turkey is located on the Anatolian plate, which is in between the larger Eurasian and African plates. The North Anatolian Fault and the East Anatolian Fault constitute the Anatolian plate.
North Anatolian Fault (NAF) line
It is the place where the Eurasian and Anatolian tectonic plates clash, and it is renowned for being “particularly devastating.” The NAF, one of the best-understood fault systems in the world, spans from the south of Istanbul to northeastern Turkey and has already triggered disastrous earthquakes. The Geological Society of London says the region has been the site of several earthquake disasters, including the 1939 earthquake in the northeastern part of Turkey.
In 1999, it prompted two earthquakes in Golcük and Düzce, which were 7.4 and 7.0 in magnitude. In 2011, an earthquake of 7.1 magnitude struck the eastern city of Van from NAF – thereby killing more than 500 people.
East Anatolian fault (EAF) line
It is the plate border between the north-moving Arabian Plate and the south-moving Anatolian Plate. It extends for 650 kilometers from eastern Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, the Aegean Sea Plate, lying beneath southern Greece and western Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is a source of seismic activity in the region.
In the past two centuries, the EAF has been the site of numerous significant earthquakes. The earthquakes took place in 1866, 1874, 1893, and 1971, according to a 2021 study.
Furthermore, an earthquake in the 19th century caused extensive damage to nearby towns, with 7,000 deaths recorded in Aleppo alone. Damage-causing aftershocks continued for almost a year in that region.
The most recent 7.8, 7.5, and 6.0 magnitude earthquakes took place on Monday and Tuesday on the East Anatolian Fault, which extends from the Maras Triple Junction, continues near the Syrian border, and connects to the NAF.