More than 9,000 people have been killed and thousands injured in a massive earthquake that struck southeast Turkey near the Syrian border in the early hours of Monday.
The earthquake, which struck near the city of Gaziantep, was closely followed by numerous aftershocks – including one that was nearly as large as the first.
Why was it so deadly?
The first earthquake was big – it registered 7.8, classified as “big” on the official scale. It broke along about 100 km (62 mi) of the fault line, causing severe damage to buildings near the fault.
Professor Joanna Faure Walker, head of the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction at University College London, said: “Of the deadliest earthquakes in a given year, only two in the last 10 years have been of the same magnitude and four in the last 10 years. flight.”
But it’s not just the power of the tremors that wreaks havoc.
This incident happened in the early hours of the morning when people were inside sleeping.
The durability of buildings is also an important factor.
Dr. Carmen Solana, a Reader in Volcanology and Risk Communication at the University of Portsmouth, said: “Unfortunately, resilient infrastructure is patchy in southern Turkey and particularly in Syria, so saving lives now mostly depends on the response. The next 24 hours are critical to finding survivors.” After 48 hours, the number of survivors will decrease enormously.”
It was an area where there had been no major earthquake in over 200 years and no warning signs, so the level of preparedness would have been lower than in a region more used to dealing with tremors.
What caused the earthquake?
The Earth’s crust is made up of separate pieces, called plates, that settle next to each other.
These plates often try to move but are prevented by friction as they rub against adjacent plates. Sometimes, however, the pressure increases until one plate suddenly snaps, causing the surface to move.
In this case, it was the Arabian plate moving north and grinding against the Anatolian plate.
Map showing fault lines around Turkey and Syria
Plate friction has been responsible for very destructive earthquakes in the past.
On August 13, 1822, it produced a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, significantly less than the 7.8 magnitudes recorded on Monday.
Nevertheless, earthquakes in the 19th century caused enormous damage to cities in the area, with 7,000 deaths recorded in the city of Aleppo alone. The damaging aftershocks continued for nearly a year.
Several aftershocks have already occurred after the current earthquake, and scientists expect it to follow the same trend as previous large ones in the region.