On Monday, February 6, 2023, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, followed by a magnitude 7.5 tremor, killed nearly 2,300 people in southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria.
The first earthquake, estimated to be the largest ever recorded in Turkey, struck near the city of Gaziantep, sending more than 40 aftershocks which engendered a second earthquake with a magnitude as close to the initial one.
The second quake struck the Elbistan district of Kahramanmara province nearly 12 hours later. Shortly after, a third quake with a magnitude of 6 hit the country.
As the world grappled with the shock and dismay over three massive earthquakes that struck the country in a single day, Chris Elders, professor at the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, provided a plausible explanation behind the disaster.
Elders told Al Jazeera that the initial earthquake sent aftershocks that extended to regions located from 100 km to 200 km in the country, which all lie along a “big fault line.”
Why do Turkey’s fault lines make it susceptible to deadly earthquakes?
Historically, Turkey has been deemed a hot zone for earthquakes due to its tectonic location. Beneath the earth’s surface lies 15 tectonic plates/rocks nestled close to each other. The plates often try to move but are stopped by the friction of the other plates.
A fault line is a crack between two tectonic plates that occurs when the plates move against each other in different directions. An earthquake occurs due to sudden movement in the fault lines, building pressure until it’s released in the form of an earthquake.
The country is located on the Anatolian Plate, which lies between the Eurasian and African plates. The Anatolian Plate reportedly has two fault lines emerging from the North Anatolian Fault and the East Anatolian Fault, which makes it susceptible to earthquakes.
As reported on the BBC, the recent earthquake was due to the Arabian plate moving and rubbing against the Anatolian plate. This caused the pressure to build up in fault lines, inevitably resulting in a deadly earthquake.
On Monday, several earthquakes reportedly hit Turkey and the neighboring country of Syria, killing and injuring thousands of people.
According to Aljazeera, the incident has killed at least 1,498 people in Turkey and 810 in Syria as the death toll continues to rise in both countries.
While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that search and rescue teams were dispatched to the locations, the war-torn country in Syria has declared a state of emergency and besieged the international community for help to rescue the civilians.