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Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria: why is seismic activity a constant threat?

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

The earthquake in Turkey and Syria has been one of the worst in recent decades due to a combination of different factors. According to the latest official data, at least 40,000 people have lost their lives by being trapped under the collapsing buildings.

Chris McGrath / Getty Images

Southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria are exposed to seismic activity due to their location at the intersection of three major tectonic plates: the African, Anatolian, and Arabian plates.

In Turkey, there is the East Anatolian Fault, which is an active fault that runs from northern Turkey to eastern Iran. Earthquakes in this region are common and often destructive due to the high population density in the affected areas.

In Syria, there is also seismic activity due to its location in the same seismically active region, although earthquakes are not as common as in Turkey. However, earthquakes in Syria can also be destructive due to a lack of earthquake preparedness and safety measures in some areas.

Earthquakes are caused by movements in the layers of the Earth, especially in the Earth's crust. The Earth's crust is composed of several tectonic plates that move slowly due to convection currents in the mantle.

When two tectonic plates slide against each other or move in opposite directions, the accumulated energy is suddenly released, causing a seismic shake. This release of energy propagates in the form of seismic waves that travel through the Earth and cause the tremors that we perceive as an earthquake.

It is important to note that although earthquakes are unavoidable in these regions, the preparation and construction of earthquake-resistant buildings and structures can help reduce the impact of earthquakes and protect people and property from damaging effects.

That's why, so far, 245 arrest warrants have been issued in connection with alleged negligence in buildings collapsed by the devastating earthquake. Police have arrested 65 builders in connection with this case, and further arrests are not ruled out.

The earthquake on February 6 was 7.8 magnitude, leaving a town devastated and shattered. These events have shaken the entire world, which has turned completely to help the Syrian and Turkish peoples. On Monday, February 20, a new earthquake shook Turkey and Syria, this time measuring 6.4, leaving at least three dead and more than 700 injured.

As reported by El Periódico, the Turkish College of Physicians has declared that the death toll from the strong earthquakes on February 6 could be up to 60,000, 50% more than the official figure so far. However, they have advanced that in the first days of March they will provide more realistic data based on the number of burials carried out.

These data are only a provisional balance, since there are still tens of thousands of bodies under the rubble. Estimates suggest that around 100,000 deaths could be counted.

How to help earthquake victims?

In situations as delicate as the one being experienced in the eastern Mediterranean, it is crucial that society come together to help the victims of these devastating earthquakes.

Donations can be made through UNICEF or Save the Children to support the work in defence of the children affected by the earthquakes, you can also make a direct donation to the Red Cross to help all victims, and in Action Against Hunger you will not only find real-time information about the victims, but you will also be able to make a donation.

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