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 February 7, 2023

Thousands of people dead after 7.8 magnitude earthquake strikes Turkey

Thousands of people are dead after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and parts of Syria, the Washington Post reported. The quake happened early Monday morning and leveled buildings, trapping the people inside.

Officials in Turkey reported that some 14,400 people were injured had been injured the quake. The epicenter of the disaster was in the Kahramanmaras province, which lies near the Syrian border.

However, people in places as far away as Jordan, Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon reported feeling the earthquake. Aftershocks continued to pound the region by the dozens, with at least one reaching 7.5 in magnitude, almost matching the initial quake's power.

Rescuers were forced to dig through the rubble to find survivors, fighting the aftermath of the disaster and the cold temperatures. The death toll is expected to climb with each passing hour and casualty discovered.

As of Tuesday evening, some 7,000 were reported dead, making this one of the deadliest earthquakes this century, CNN reported. Turkey's disaster response agency reported that 5,700 buildings have collapsed in the nation.

This quake will likely go down as one of the strongest in nearly 80 years for the Middle Eastern nation that has seen its share of powerful events. In 1939, Turkey was hit by a 7.8-magnitude quake that killed 30,000.

Turkey is prone to earthquakes as it sits along an area where the massive Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates meet with two others. The fault line stretches for about 100 miles cutting along the Turkish and Syrian borders.

The reason these are so severe for Turkey is not just because of the location, however. Monday's earthquake is known as a "strike slip" where the tectonic plates move horizontally.

The shockwave from this type of movement is particularly destructive to architecture based on the movement of the plates rubbing against each other. By comparison, the West Coast of the U.S. lies in the so-called Ring of Fire, but experiences shockwaves as one part of the plate slips beneath the other instead of the side-to-side friction.

Another factor that made the quake so deadly was the time of day it struck. Because it was in the early morning hours, many people were sleeping in their beds and thus became trapped in piles of debris from their homes collapsing.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by freezing temperatures as well, and they're expected to dip below zero Wednesday. People were urged to leave homes that were damaged and potentially unstable, but that hardly seemed feasible considering the frigid temperatures.

Considering these structures are located in a region that sees more than its fair share of these disasters, it would seem construction should be able to withstand earthquakes. Not so, United States Geological Survey structural engineer Kishor Jaiswal told CNN.

Despite the known risks and mandated construction techniques, many buildings simply aren't up to snuff. “If you are not designing these structures for the seismic intensity that they may face in their design life, these structures may not perform well,” Jaiswal said.

The disaster that continues to unfold in Turkey is a humanitarian tragedy. Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done in the aftermath except learn from the mistakes of the past and rebuild using safer stronger materials and techniques.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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