Why the earthquake in Turkey was so deadly: “An unprecedented ‘double'”

the seismologist stephen hicksfrom University College London (UCL), said the major earthquake that has struck Turkey near the Syrian border is “kind of a worst case scenario” due to its magnitude and its position close to the surface.

“What we have under Turkey in this case is sort of a worst-case scenario of a very large magnitude 7.8 earthquake, but also shallow, so only about 10 kilometers below the surface. So it causes very strong shakes,” explained the expert.

This explains why the series of powerful earthquakes that have shaken the border area between Turkey and Syria out so lethalleaving for the moment 2,349 dead and almost 11,000 wounded in both countries, and has demolished thousands of buildings.

The first major earthquake was recorded at 4:17 a.m. (01:17 GMT) and had a magnitude of 7.7 degreesaccording to the Turkish emergency service Afad, with an epicenter in Pazarcik in the Turkish province of kahramanmaras. Subsequently, several tremors occurred, one of them magnitude 7.6 at 10.24 GMT.

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The specialist described the phenomenon as “without precedents” and said to expect “tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of aftershocks”

“We call this a ‘doublet,’” he said. hicks to the AFP. “It is an earthquake of similar size that occurs in a similar place and time. And they are quite unusual. They are not completely new. We’ve seen them happen in earthquakes, big earthquakes under the oceans, causing major tsunamis. But I think in terms of the impact, the direct impact that it will have on the rescue efforts, I think this is quite unprecedented”.

“We can safely say that there will be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of aftershocks. We expect most of them to be small and harmless, but unfortunately the possibility of strong aftershocks still exists.”

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hicks explained that in recent decades the failure of eastern anatolia it has suffered fewer earthquakes than the northern Anatolian fault, closer to Istanbul, but there is historical evidence that large-magnitude earthquakes have already occurred here.

The seismologist added that, unfortunately, the poor building standards they make Turkey more vulnerable to large tremors than earthquake-prone nations with stricter codes, such as Japan.

“I think there would still be some buildings collapsing, that is common in most earthquakes, but I think we would not have had such widespread devastation and the large number of collapsed buildings, as we have seen in Turkey,” he said.

For his part, I was born Gorurearthquake expert Turkish Academy of Sciencesurged local authorities to immediately check the region’s dams for cracks to avoid floods potentially catastrophic.

Authorities cut off natural gas and electricity supplies throughout the region as a precaution, and also closed schools for two weeks.

The despair of a man in front of a collapsed building in Diyarbakir, (REUTERS / Sertac Kayar)
The despair of a man in front of a collapsed building in Diyarbakir, (REUTERS / Sertac Kayar) (SERTAC KAYAR /)

At the same time, David Rotheryan earthquake expert at Britain’s Open University, explained: “The magnitude of aftershocks, which can last for days even though their energy is mostly diminished, carries the risk of collapsing structures already weakened by previous events.”

“This makes search and rescue work dangerous,” he said.

The low temperatures and the snow in the affected area, where there are also mountainous territories that are difficult to access, they also complicate rescue operations.

The most shocking photos of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria
Destruction in Besnia, near the city of Harim, in the rebel-held province of Idlib. (Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP) (OMAR HAJ KADOUR /)

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoganstated that some 45 countries have offered help after the devastating earthquake and the strong aftershocks that are still going on.

Turkey is located in one of the most active seismic zones in the world.

Turkey’s Duzce region was hit by a magnitude 7.4 earthquake in 1999, which killed more than 17,000 people, including some 1,000 in Istanbul.

Experts have long warned that a large earthquake could devastate istanbula megalopolis of 16 million inhabitants full of dilapidated houses.

The last magnitude 7.8 tremor struck Turkey in 1939, killing 33,000 people in the eastern province of Erzincan.

(With information from AFP and EFE)

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