Turkey is no stranger to strong earthquakes: The case of the East Anatolian Fault and Gaziantep: a geoscientist’s perspective
Turkey is no stranger to strong earthquakes, as it is situated along tectonic plate boundaries. The country has been struck by seven earthquakes with magnitudes 7.0 or greater over the past 25 years, most of which have been deadly.
The earthquake and its aftershocks have flattened buildings and sent rescuers digging through concrete debris to find survivors, with the death toll expected to increase further. Nature spoke to four researchers about the seismic activity in the region and what the next few days will bring.
Most of Turkey sits on the Anatolian plate between two major faults: the North Anatolian Fault and the East Anatolian Fault. The tectonic plate that carries Arabia, including Syria, is moving northwards and colliding with the southern rim of Eurasia, which is squeezing Turkey out towards the west, says David Rothery, a geoscientist at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK. He said that Turkey is moving west about two centimetres a year. “Half the length of this fault is lit up now with earthquakes.”
The Turkish Earthquake Foundation is based in Istanbul with a seismologist who says that people are aware of their vulnerability to earthquakes. “This wasn’t a surprise,” says Puskulcu, who last week was touring the cities of Adana, Tarsus and Mersin, and areas of western Turkey, delivering workshops on earthquake awareness.
In a March 2016 study, Arzu Arslan Kelam and her colleagues suggest that Gaziantep’s center would experience a moderate to severe damage from an earthquake. The low-rise brick structures that make up most existing buildings are very close to each other.
Things are worse in Syria, where more than 11 years of conflict have made building standards impossible to enforce. Building collapses were seen in Syria’s northwestern regions after the earthquake. Some war-damaged buildings in Syria have been rebuilt using low-quality materials or “whatever materials are available”, says Rothery. “They might have fallen down more readily than things that were built at somewhat greater expense. We’ve yet to find out,” he adds.
“The weather forecast for the region for tonight is dropping below freezing. That means that people who are trapped in the rubble, who might be rescued, could well freeze to death. So these hazards continue,” he adds.
The earthquake that killed 10 thousand people in Turkey last Monday destroyed Anbathya’s historic center — the largest earthquake ever recorded in an area of southern Africa
There is fantastic footage of the split olive grove from Turkey, showing a jagged, sandy-colored canyon-like chasm. The deepest point of the cleavage is over 40 meters.
Irfan Aksu, who lives in the neighborhood, told Turkish news agency Demioren News Agency that when the earthquake started last Monday it created “an incredible sound” where he lived.
He called for experts to inspect the area for future damage. “This is not a small town, there are 1000 houses, and 7000 thousand people live here,” he said. If it was a bit closer, it could have happened in the middle of our town.
Last Monday’s earthquake was the strongest to hit anywhere in the world since an 8.1 magnitude quake struck a region near the South Sandwich Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean in 2021, though the remote location of that incident resulted in little damage.
A number of factors have contributed to making this earthquake so lethal. One of them is the time of day it occurred. With the quake hitting early in the morning, many people were in their beds when it happened, and are now trapped under the rubble of their homes.
The site of ancient Antioch — a crossroads of civilizations and a modern tourist and religious pilgrimage destination in southern Turkey — is one of the cities left most devastated by the Feb. 6 earthquake that killed tens of thousands in Turkey and Syria.
Kocaoglu, a native of the city led tours of the historical core for 10 years, guiding visitors from around the world. Near-total destruction was suffered by it. The bazaar, the breakfast place he’d take tourists, the local hangouts — all are decimated.
The guide to Turkey summarizes Anbathya’s charm with the sentence: “atmospheric old-town fragments cling on amid the modern hubbub.” Bars and restaurants are lying in waste on a narrow street.
Earthquake damages cultural heritage ruins in Antakya, Anatolia, the city of Alawites, according to NPR
“The earthquakes damaged structures spanning centuries and cultures, from Roman forts to historic mosques to churches holy to a number of Christian denominations,” Bénédicte de Montlaur, president and CEO of the World Monuments Fund, tells NPR. We have no doubt that the heritage will take a long while to be repaired and we will need a large international presence to support the local efforts.
The city has a kaleidoscope of peoples from the ages of Alawites to recent war refugees. There were more than 200,000 people living in the city before the quake, but now survivors who have remained in the surrounding district are living in tents, Kocaoglu included.
“Antakya and the surrounding region has a deep, diverse history and has long been home to people speaking different languages and practicing different religions,” says Jennifer Stager, a researcher of ancient Antioch at Johns Hopkins University. “It is vital that our focus remain on the living people in need, while recognizing that these monuments are a significant part of the region’s history and contemporary life.”
The mosque that Turkey claims is the oldest in the Anatolia region has caved in. Over the centuries, the mosque was converted back and forth between being a church and a mosque. The minaret of the 17th century was undamaged despite it being destroyed in an earthquake in 1854. After this month’s earthquake, the minaret and the mosque’s domed roof are gone.
The Sermaye Mosque is notable for being the first mosque to have an entrance built through a minaret. The minaret is no longer standing. The Ottoman-era New Mosque, also known as the “Yaki Camii,” is a complete pile of rubble.
The Ulu Mosque, built in the 18th century, used to broadcast the call to prayer five times a day in the center of the city. Now it is completely gone. Kocaoglu says the prayer call is a sign that Antakya’s life is not over.
Antiocha, Greece: a Jewish city devastated by the first three centuries of the invasion by Peter, Jesus, and his father Constantine
The first few decades after Jesus’ death were when Peter brought Christianity to the ancient area. The city is where Christians were first called Christian, according to the New Testament.
The Orthodox Church in Antakya, the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate until the 14th century, was decimated in the quake — its façade now a jumble of iron and cement debris.
A newer Protestant church, housed in a building built in 1860 and previously the site of a French consulate, was also crushed. Run by a Korean Methodist group, its South Korean pastor, Yakup Chang, led Sunday worship services in the street outside the church. The congregants were missing in the earthquake.
Outside of the Holy Land, Ancient Antioch was a major hub for Judaism. The Jewish community lived in the city for 2,300 years. By the time of February’s earthquake, it numbered only a dozen or so members.
There is some damage to the synagogue. The Torah scroll was taken out of the city for safekeeping after the earthquake.
After the quake, the community’s surviving members moved to Istanbul. Antakya’s Jewish community president, Saul Cenudioglu, and his wife Fortuna, were killed when their apartment building collapsed.
A bulldozer paves a hilly path. He liked that the Pasha Restaurant was sliced down the middle. Orhan Uyanik wondered about a couple who got engaged here recently.
The city “was ruined by the earthquakes six or seven times. Maybe this is the last. It doesn’t matter,” says Kocaoglu. We will do something for our city again and again.