On Monday, massive earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria, killing hundreds and injuring tens of thousands.
Hour by hour, the likelihood of finding survivors decreases as more time passes after the big tremblor, but rescue teams are still feverishly looking for signs of life beneath the wreckage of collapsed buildings despite dreadful conditions. What we know about the earthquake and why it killed so many people is outlined here.
What area was affected by the quake?
At about 4 a.m. on Monday, locals were jolted awake by one of the worst earthquakes to hit the area in almost a century. At a depth of 24.1 kilometers (14.9 miles), the USGS reported that the 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) east of Nurdagi in Turkey's Gaziantep region.
In the hours following the original event, the region was rocked by a slew of aftershocks. One hour and eleven minutes later, a 6.7 aftershock followed, but it wasn't until almost nine hours later that the greatest temblor, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, occurred. There have been more than 125 aftershocks reported.
Now, rescuers on both sides of the border are working against the clock and the conditions to extricate people from the rubble. The Turkish disaster agency estimates that at than 5,700 buildings have been destroyed.
Another big earthquake struck Turkey on Monday; a 7.8 magnitude tremor struck the country's east in 1939, killing over 30,000 people.
We don't understand why this one was so lethal.
This earthquake has been so deadly because of a variety of variables. The time of day it happened is one of them. Many victims are feared to be under the debris of their collapsed homes because the quake struck so early in the morning.
Furthermore, poor conditions have made reaching affected regions trickier, and rescue and recovery activities on both sides of the border have been substantially more difficult once teams have arrived.
On multiple instances, temperatures have dropped to well below zero.
The stranded people under the rubble, who have been without food and water for days, are in danger of dying from hypothermia as the region is expected to experience more scattered showers and snow. Officials have urged people to evacuate their homes for their own safety in the face of fears of more earthquakes.
How long do people have a chance of living if they are buried alive?
A structural engineer and humanitarian coordinator advised rescuers not to give up hope, saying that survivors may be found for "weeks" after the devastating earthquake. Kit Miyamoto, president of the non-profit Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief, echoed these sentiments, praising the Turkish community for rallying together and "doing their share" in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Family, friends, and neighbors were uncovered by the community as the first line of defense.
Search and rescue efforts after an earthquake have a limited window of opportunity, according to some experts. Professor of catastrophe and health at University College London Ilan Kelman said, "Typically, few survivors are brought out after 72 hours - however every life saved is crucial and some people are extricated after many days."
And, as we have seen in Turkey and Syria, time is always the adversary, he continued. The weather has dropped below freezing at night and has been cold during the day, causing individuals to perish from hypothermia. Immediate medical demands, such as bleeding to death or succumbing to crush injuries. Aftershocks that collapse fragile structures with people underneath. It's a long wait for help, and many people perish from hunger and thirst.
What kind of magnitude is a 7.8 quake?
Magnitude is a measure of how strong an earthquake is. The depth of the earthquake and the surrounding terrain can both affect how violent the shaking feels. An increase of one full number on the magnitude scale is equivalent to a 32-fold increase in power.
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey on this occasion, and its aftershocks were detected hundreds of kilometers away in Israel and Lebanon.
Because of its location on two different tectonic plates, Turkey frequently experiences powerful earthquakes. There have been seven quakes in the past 25 years with a magnitude of 7.0 or higher, but Monday's was one of the strongest.
It's also the largest earthquake anywhere in the planet since an 8.1 magnitude quake rocked a region near the South Sandwich Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean in 2021, albeit that event was so far away that it caused only minor damage.
On Monday, February 8th, 2023, two consecutive earthquakes with magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5 on the Richter scale struck Turkey and Syria. The death toll across both countries has now surpassed 20,000, making it the deadliest earthquake in the region in two decades. Rescue crews have saved a 10-day-old baby and his mother from the ruins of a collapsed building. The earthquakes have caused significant damage to buildings in Turkey, with some 40% of buildings in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras being damaged according to a preliminary report by Turkey's Bogazici University. Turkish authorities have launched a crackdown on developers of buildings that were toppled in the earthquake.
Turkey is facing "very serious difficulties" due to the disaster, which may soon come to haunt President Tayyip Erdogan's election chances. Western pressure on Turkey's NATO stance may be relieved in the wake of the earthquakes, but not for long.
- Turkey’s devastating earthquake comes at a critical time for the country’s future
- Hope fades for survivors as Turkey-Syria earthquake toll passes 20,000
- Turkey, Syria earthquake death toll and devastation: Live tracker
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