Why earthquakes in Turkey and Syria were so devastating
The string of earthquakes that rocked Turkey and Syria on Monday and continued till Tuesday has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people so far. The death count is expected to rise further as chilling temperatures hinder the rescue of those buried under the rubble. But why are repeated earthquakes hitting the region, and why is it so severe? Let's take a look.
How do earthquakes occur
Earth's outermost surface, or the crust, is fragmented into sheets of rock called tectonic plates. These have rough edges and are constantly grinding against each other. The boundaries of the plates are made up of faults, and the grinding causes faults to get stuck and build up stress. When a plate finally slips in a horizontal motion, it releases tremendous energy, which triggers earthquakes.
What is different about Turkey
Turkey lies on the Anatolian tectonic plate, which is crammed between the Eurasian and African plates. A minor Arabian plate in the north restricts its movement further. It also borders two major fault zones—the East Anatolian and the North Anatolian—making it one of the world's most seismically volatile regions. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Monday originated in the East Anatolian Fault.
100km rupture between Anatolian and Arabian plates
The first earthquake that struck on Monday is said to be one of the deadliest in a decade, with a rupture of over 100km between the Anatolian and Arabian plates. The epicenter was located around 26km east of Nurdagi, Turkey, at a depth of around 18km. Notably, the lesser the depth of the earthquake, the more likely it is to cause damage.
Earthquake's aftershocks rendered all structures vulnerable
What makes this instance so severe
During the 20th century, the East Anatolian Fault exhibited only a few significant seismic events. Only three earthquakes above the magnitude of 6.0 have been recorded in the region since 1970, as per the US Geological Survey (USGS). In 1999, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake jolted Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 dead. Earlier, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 1822 killed around 20,000 people.
250 times stronger than 2016 earthquake in Italy
Usually, a year witnesses less than 20 earthquakes globally with a magnitude of 7.0. Turkey's first earthquake on Monday leveled the intensity of one of the two deadliest earthquakes recorded since 2013. It released 250 times the energy compared to the 2016 earthquake in central Italy, which left nearly 300 dead. The tremors traveled toward the northeast, wreaking havoc on central Turkey and Syria.