The Kahramanmaraş Earthquake

By Camille Eckert 

On February 6, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake with an epicenter 14.2 miles east of Nurdagi struck southern and central Turkey as well as northern and western Syria, and it was felt as far as Israel and Egypt. Nine hours later, an aftershock with a magnitude of 7.7 hit in the Kahramanmaraş Province of Turkey (CNN). This earthquake was the second most powerful ever recorded in the region and the deadliest earthquake worldwide since Haiti 2010. With a current death toll of over 51,000, an injury count double that, and a damage estimate of 84.1 billion USD, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling the earthquake “the worst natural disaster in the region in a hundred years.”

The sequence of earthquakes and aftershocks were caused by a strike-slip faulting, in which the tectonic plates move opposite each other, in the East and North Anatolian Fault zones, releasing built up strain and causing horizontal displacement. The earthquake affected the neighboring provinces of Adıyaman, Kilis, Osmaniye, Gaziantep, Malatya, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Adana and Hatay, where around 14 million people reside. By February 23, the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change conducted damage inspections in Turkey, revealing 164,000 buildings were either destroyed or severely damaged with another 150,000 moderately damaged. The destruction was shown to be worse in more populated, downtown districts with the New York Times identifying nearly 200 damaged buildings in central Kahramanmaraş alone. 

With the cities filled with eight- to 10-story apartment buildings, an estimated 1.5 million people have been left homeless. Half of the Maras Grand Mosque in the heart of Kahramanmaraş was lost, and residents have been forced to take refuge in tents in the city soccer stadium. Unfortunately, rescue efforts were hindered by a large winter storm as well as destroyed roads and airports. 

However, residents still have access to the Grand Bazaar and many buildings are working to reopen and regain a sense of normalcy (Daily Sabah). Still, 10 of Turkey’s provinces were put in a three-month state of emergency, and the United States Geological Survey has put out an aftershock statement for the next month; however, the aftershocks will not be similar in magnitude. 

Karla Sahin ’24 remarked, “as someone whose family lives in Istanbul, I felt relieved that they were outside the disaster zone and not physically harmed, but the drastic effect of the earthquake caused a lot of stress and fear in my family, because we knew that it could have been my grandmother or baby cousins within the zone.” From February 24 through March 3, Winsor’s South Asian Student Alliance (SASA) ran a fundraiser to raise donations for areas affected by the earthquake as well as the recent Pakistan flooding. If you or someone you know is interested in helping out those affected, the best way to do so is by donating through organizations such as Global Empowerment Mission, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, or Doctors Without Borders.