A major earthquake and a series of strong aftershocks shook Southern Turkey and other parts of the Middle East on Monday. The most powerful of these registered 7.8 magnitude, placing it among the five most powerful earthquakes recorded during the 21st century in the world.
This first earthquake, at 4:17 am local time in Turkey (Sunday evening in the United States), was followed later in the day by another powerful temblor hundreds of kilometers away, at magnitude 7.5, as well as additional aftershocks. These earthquakes appeared to be occurring along the East Anatolian Fault, which divides the Eurasian tectonic plate to the north from the Anatolian plate to the south.
Earthquakes of this magnitude produce violent shaking of the ground and landslides and can level buildings. They are terrifying and deadly events for people living nearby. Early death counts, as of Monday, had already exceeded 1,600 people, The New York Times reports.
This number is expected to grow as early images and videos from the region showed multiple collapsed structures, including high-rise buildings. Preliminary estimates from the US Geological Survey indicate that, most likely, 1,000 to 10,000 people have died, with economic losses equal to 1 to 2 percent of Turkey’s gross domestic product.
This will create a humanitarian crisis, with cold weather and rain and snow falling in the vicinity of populated areas. Hundreds of thousands of structures may be deemed unfit for even temporary habitation in the wake of Monday’s earthquakes.
The largest metro area near the earthquake was the city of Gaziantep, which has a population exceeding 2 million people. The most iconic feature of this city is Gaziantep Castle, constructed on top of a hill in the middle of the city. It was built about two millennia ago, and its stone walls were fortified by the Roman Empire. It was significantly damaged as the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region.
The effect of these earthquakes extended from Southern Turkey into Northern Syria, a war-torn area including the provinces of Aleppo, Hama, and Lataki. Shaking from the main quake was felt as far away as Lebanon and Israel.
2,200 years old Gazintap Castle destroyed by the earthquake in Turkey.
Before vs Now. pic.twitter.com/vAtIWhmlsA
— Xavi Ruiz (@xruiztru) February 6, 2023
It was not clear when this spate of earthquakes would end, as powerful aftershocks were continuing in the region late on Monday night local time, with a magnitude 6.0 aftershock nearly 12 hours after the initial, powerful temblor.
The most powerful and deadly earthquake of the 21st century occurred in December 2004, when a magnitude 9.3 event in the Indian Ocean triggered a massive tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.
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