More than 2,000 people have been killed and thousands injured by a strong earthquake that hit southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, in the early hours of Monday morning.
The quake, which struck near the city of Gaziantep, was closely followed by several aftershocks, including one that was nearly as large as the quake itself.
Why was he so deadly?
It was a large earthquake – recorded as 7.8, rated a “major” on the official magnitude scale. It ruptured along approximately 100 km (62 miles) of fault line, causing severe damage to buildings close to the fault.
Professor Joanna Faure Walker, director of the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction at University College London, said: ‘Of the deadliest earthquakes in any given year, only two in the last 10 years were of equivalent magnitude and four in the previous 10″. years.”
But it’s not just the power of the tremor that wreaks havoc.
This incident occurred in the early hours of the morning when people were inside and asleep.
The sturdiness of the buildings is also a factor.
Dr Carmen Solana, Reader in Volcanology and Risk Communications at the University of Portsmouth, says: ‘Resilient infrastructure is sadly patchy in southern Turkey and Syria in particular, so saving lives now relies primarily on Answer. The next 24 hours are crucial to finding survivors. After 48 hours the number of survivors decreases enormously.”
This was a region where there had been no major earthquakes or warning signs for more than 200 years, so the level of preparedness would have been lower than in a region more accustomed to dealing with earthquakes.
What caused the earthquake?
The earth’s crust is made up of separate parts, called plates, that nestle next to each other.
These plates often attempt to move but are impeded by the friction of rubbing against an adjacent one. But sometimes the pressure builds up until a plate suddenly shifts, causing the surface to move.
In this case it was the Arabian Plate moving north and rubbing against the Anatolian Plate.
Plate friction has been responsible for very damaging earthquakes in the past.
On August 13, 1822, it caused an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4, significantly less than the magnitude 7.8 recorded on Monday.
Even so, the 19th-century earthquake caused immense damage to cities in the area, with 7,000 deaths recorded in Aleppo city alone. The damaging aftershocks continued for nearly a year.
There have already been several aftershocks since the current quake, and scientists expect it to follow the same trend as the previous major quake in the region.
How are earthquakes measured?
They are measured on a scale called the Moment Magnitude Scale (Mw). This has replaced the better known Richter scale, now considered outdated and less precise.
The number given to an earthquake represents a combination of the distance the fault line traveled and the force that moved it.
A tremor of 2.5 or less usually cannot be felt, but can be detected by instruments. Up to five earthquakes are felt and cause minor damage. The 7.8 magnitude Turkish earthquake is classified as severe and usually causes major damage, as in this case.
Any value above 8 causes catastrophic damage and can totally destroy the communities at its core.
How does this compare to other large earthquakes?
The earthquake off the coast of Japan in 2011 was recorded as a magnitude 9 and caused widespread damage on land and triggered a tsunami, which resulted in a major accident at a nuclear power plant along the coast.
The largest earthquake ever recorded was 9.5 recorded in Chile in 1960.