Darcy Daenzer Leia Lehrer

Deadliest earthquake occurs in Turkey and Syria in over 20 years




On Feb. 6, a seven-point- eight magnitude earthquake has left at least 35,000 people dead. The epicenter of the earthquakeoccurred near the Turkey-Syrian border and the unusually high six-point-seven, seven-point-five and six-point-zero magnitudeaftershocks occurred just hours after the initial quake, further increasing the death toll.

On the Richter Scale, a measurement of the strength of earthquakes, a seven-point- eight magnitude earthquake is considered to be major, causing damages to most buildings, as well as obviously being a threat to the people in the area.

The earthquake occurred along the East Anatolian Fault, similar to the San Andreas fault in California in that it is a “strike-slip or transform fault,” meaning that “two plates  past each other,” said Professor Borrello, Chair of Environmental Studies at Alma College.

For the East Anatolian Fault, earthquakes of this magnitude are fairly rare. Since 1970, there have only been three earthquakes with a magnitude of six or more.

In a strike-slip fault, “solid rocks are pushing up against each other across a vertical fault line, building stress until one finally slips in a horizontal motion, releasing a tremendous amount of strain that can trigger an earthquake,” said Gloria Dickie of Reuters.

Furthermore, this earthquake, which was only made worse by the fact that the rupture occurred close to the surface, proved to be that much more deadly because of lax building codes.

“Turkey’s construction codes meet current earthquake-engineering standards, at least on paper, but they are too rarely enforced, explaining why thousands of buildings toppled over or pancaked down onto the people inside,” said NPR.

Additionally, “Turkish justice officials targeted more than 130 people allegedly involved in shoddy and illegal construction methods,” said NPR.

“Skirting building codes for profit [(to save money)] is a common act. In Florida a few years ago, there was a luxury apartment building that collapsed due to this. Also, when California had the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1994 Northridge quake, it was discovered that some structures buckled that shouldn’t have,” said Borrello.

While rescue efforts continue in Turkey and Syria, in other cases, these efforts can be prevented by the effects of climate change, further exacerbating the damages felt by devastating natural disasters.

For example, “In early August, 2022, China experienced a devastating earthquake at about the same time a climate-related series of storms [and] flooding was happening. This prevented rescue efforts and no doubt led to more deaths and displacement,” said Borrello.

Furthermore, “[W]ildfires that have been burning our Western U.S. are climate related. The intensity and devastation exceed what would be predicted without climate change,” said Borrello.

“Even earthquakes and volcanoes, which are supposed to be caused by internal forces isolated from climate effects, are impacted by climate change when rescue operations are hindered by climate-related events,” said Borrello.

With Syria already being a war-torn country, when one considers the effects of climate change, the skirting of building codes and unprecedented earthquakes, these terrible situations are only made that much worse.

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