Turkey: Why most of the population lives at risk of earthquakes

Turkey: Why most of the population lives at risk of earthquakes

disaster in Turkey
Why most of the Turkish population lives in constant danger of earthquakes

Catastrophe in Turkey: Why most of the Turkish population lives in constant danger of earthquakes

News in the video: Hundreds dead in severe earthquake on the Turkish-Syrian border.

STORY: Hundreds of people died in a severe earthquake in the border region between Turkey and Syria on Monday. In southern Turkey alone, more than 280 people died and over 2,300 were injured. Several provinces are affected and experts assume that the numbers will continue to rise sharply. More than 230 dead and around 600 injured were also counted in north-west Syria, according to health authorities. A man in Djindires, Syria, which is around 50 kilometers north-west of Aleppo on the border with Turkey, was in despair in the morning hours: “Twelve families are trapped here. And nobody can get out. They’re all in here. See you no one’s there to check on people yet. There’s no civil defense. We’ve only been working with our hands since three in the morning.” The tremors lasted about a minute and were felt as far away as Israel, Cyprus and Lebanon in the early hours of the morning. In Syria, as here in Turkey, numerous houses collapsed and rescuers searched for survivors in the rubble. The tremors in the early morning had a magnitude of 7.8, according to the US earthquake agency. The epicenter was near the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep. The US earthquake observatory also registered several aftershocks. Earthquakes, some of which have serious consequences, occur again and again in Turkey. In 1999, more than 17,000 people died in a magnitude 7.6 earthquake. The first offers of help came from Germany, Israel and the USA, among others. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Twitter that her thoughts are with the relatives of the victims and everyone who feared for their family, friends and neighbors.


Another severe earthquake has shaken Turkey and northern Syria. At least 2,300 people were killed and thousands injured. The earth keeps shaking in the region. But why is that?

At least 2,300 dead, thousands injured and thousands of buildings destroyed: That is the grim result of the earthquake that hit the south of the city early Monday morning Turkey and shook the north of Syria. As tragic as this catastrophe is, it does not come as a surprise, because Turkey has repeatedly been hit by severe earthquakes. In one of the most momentous of recent years, more than 100 people died in Izmir in October 2020. And in 1999, earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.4 in the region around the northwestern industrial city of Izmit even claimed more than 17,000 lives. Experts are also expecting a strong earthquake in the near future for Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. In fact, most of the Turkish population lives in constant danger of earthquakes.

Turkey is shifting west

The reason for this threat lies in the structure of the earth’s crust. It is not a fixed unit, but consists of many individual parts of different sizes, the tectonic plates. There are seven major tectonic plates and about 50 smaller tectonic plates. How many there are exactly is controversial in science. The crucial thing is that these individual pieces of the puzzle of the earth’s crust are moving. They “swim” on the outer part of the earth’s mantle.

Where the tectonic plates collide, either one submerges beneath the other or they are pushed against each other and condense. Turkey is right in the middle of such tectonic faults. It lies mostly on a separate microplate system, the Anatolian Block. This is pushed north by the Arabian Plate in the east, where it collides with the mighty Eurasian tectonic plate. The Anatolian block therefore deviates to the west, scrapes along the Eurasian plate and collides with the Aegean plate in the west (which is why the earth keeps shaking in Greece). Strong earthquakes occur again and again along these Anatolian fault zones.

Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul in the north-west of the country, is also in one of these zones. Geoscientists fear that the more than 15 million inhabitants of the economic and cultural metropolis on the Sea of ​​Marmara are also threatened by a severe earthquake. The last occurred almost 260 years ago, on May 22, 1766. Even then, tremors with a magnitude of about 7.1 to 7.5 and a subsequent tsunami in the still much sparsely populated city claimed thousands of lives. According to the experts, the next tremor could also reach a magnitude of up to 7.4.

The researchers’ gloomy prognosis is based on the results of measurements at the bottom of the Sea of ​​Marmara. With the help of a new measuring system the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel In 2019, together with scientists from France and Turkey, for the first time detected significant tectonic tension under the Sea of ​​Marmara directly on the sea floor at a depth of 800 meters. “It would be enough to trigger another earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1 to 7.4,” geophysicist Dietrich Lange said at the time. He is the first author of the study, which was published in the journal “Nature Communications” in July 2019.

“Our measurements show that the fault zone in the Sea of ​​Marmara is stuck and tectonic stresses are therefore building up,” explained Lange. “If the pent-up stress was released during an earthquake, the fault zone would move more than four meters in one fell swoop. According to Geomar, such an event for nearby Istanbul would “very likely have similar far-reaching consequences as this earthquake 1999 for Izmit with over 17,000 victims”.

The Geomar test results have a catch – as do all predictions about possible earthquakes. Although the researchers know the endangered regions very well and can use computer simulations to assess the danger, they do not know when a major earthquake will occur. Also Professor Heidrun Kopp, co-author of the Geomar study Istanbul admits: “We are not in a position to predict the timing.”

Sources: Geomar Helmholtz Center, RA Online, German wave, The earthquake

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