Devastating 7.8 Earthquake Leaves Turkey and Syria Reeling

Aleise Robertson, Writer

On February 6, 2023 a magnitude 7.8 Earthquake struck the Turkey-Syria area. Within the span of nine hours, thousands of people were left dead, injured, or without a home. But the damage did not stop at the initial earthquake, a series of aftershocks reaching up to a magnitude of 6.3 struck later that day leaving the countries reeling. 

This series of earthquakes has earned the name the Kahramanmaraş earthquake sequence. Of the 81 provinces in Turkey ten were affected by the earthquakes. 1.6 million people were left homeless and more than 55,000 people died in this catastrophe. People all over the world were impacted as they struggled to contact loved ones following the commotion.

Turkey and Syria are in one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world. The region is located where three tectonic plates meet. This area in Turkey and Syria had previously experienced major earthquakes in 1939, 1999 and 2011. All three earthquakes resulted in major loss of life in the countries.

The Erzincan earthquake of 1939 was a magnitude 7.9 earthquake making it the largest in Turkey and was only a 0.1 difference on the Richter scale than the 2023 Kahramanmaraş earthquake sequence. The Izmit earthquake of 1999 was a 7.6 magnitude earthquake and the Van earthquake of 2011 had a magnitude of 7.1, the Kahramanmaraş earthquake sequence was larger than both. 

Search and rescue relief efforts continue as the countries struggle to regain their footing. Following the earthquake, the reconstruction of the buildings that collapsed and their quality has been observed and inspected from all angles as the countries look to begin to rebuild what was lost.

Jonathan Stewart, a civil engineer, commented on the construction of the buildings and their flaws.

“Typically, the columns and the beams are concrete,” Stewart says. “And then there’s kind of a masonry infill block inside these frames, which falls apart very quickly when the shaking begins.”

With little steel in the framework of buildings, the structures collapsed when the earthquake hit. 

David Alexander a professor of emergency planning at University College London said,

“This is a disaster caused by shoddy construction, not by an earthquake.”

Although the building codes were supposed to be up to date, the collapse of various types and ages of buildings brought light to the ever present issue of the flawed construction and the consequences and deaths as a result of ineffective building methods.

But despite all the controversy, the question now facing the public is, what is next?

The catastrophe continued to disturb the lives of people all over the world despite the initial quake being past.

Neslihan Utku, a physics teacher at Skyline High School whose parents live in Manisa Turkey, said, 

“Sunday [February 6] we heard the news and we were shocked, I thought there was no way it was correct, I couldn’t believe it. The first thing I wanted to do was call my parents, but they didn’t answer.”

The time change between countries made it difficult to contact loved ones. Utku was able to contact her siblings, which revealed that they did not feel the earthquake in Western Turkey and in fact they learned of the earthquake from Utku.

Utku has created a gofundme with others in her community that is connected to the Ahbab organization to raise money and donate to the people suffering in Turkey and Syria. 

“I cannot do anything when I am here, but this is what I can do for now,” Utku Says.

Donating can help people feel more connected and more impactful in a world full of catastrophic issues. Reach out to Neslihan Utku for her gofundme information, or there are many other organizations such as Doctors Without Borders that are working to send relief to those in need.