In the early hours of Monday a powerful earthquake 7.8 degrees on the Richter scale ravaged the southern turkey and the northern syria causing a large number of deaths and leaving thousands of people buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings. It is believed that at least 5,000 people have lost their lives by this catastrophe and more than 21,000 have been injured, and the WHO has warned that the death toll could be multiplied by eightas more buried victims are found.
In addition, it is estimated that more than 2,800 buildings would have collapsed due to the earthquake in Turkey, including the castle of Gaziantep, which is more than 2,000 years old. In Syria, the local authorities in the northwest of the country have reported that there are at least 255 deaths and 811 injuries, and some 325 buildings have been damaged, while another 224 have been completely destroyed.
In the opinion of seismologists, it is one of the largest earthquakes recorded in Turkey. This first earthquake was followed by a second great earthquake of 7.5 degrees in central Turkey, in an area located further north, which has generated great concern about the possibility of a phenomenon known as triggeringand which consists in the fact that an earthquake affects a second parallel fault structure that ends up fracturing and that could trigger its own aftershocks and increase the devastating effect.
“The magnitude of the earthquake in Turkey and its superficial focus, about 17 km, imply a great destructive potential”
The Secretary General of the United Nations (UN)Antonio Guterres, has called for an international response to this crisis, since, as he explained, many of the families affected by the disaster “already had a great need for humanitarian aid in areas where access is a challenge.”
Galderic Lastras, Full Professor at the GRC Marine Geosciences, Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics at the University of Barcelona, explained in statements to SMC Spain that “the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8 and its hypocenter was located about 18 kilometers deep, which is a relatively shallow depth for an earthquake of this magnitude. In general, the shallower the depth, greater are the intensities with which it is perceived on the surface and, therefore, its effects on the population”.
“The main earthquake has been followed, as usual, by numerous replicas, the largest of which occurred 11 minutes later with a magnitude of 6.7. While other large-magnitude aftershocks could occur in the short term, their frequency and magnitude can be expected to decrease over time.”
Elisa Buforn Peiró, Professor of Geophysics and Meteorology in the Department of Earth Physics and Astrophysics at the Complutense University of Madrid, explained to SM Center that: “The area in which the earthquake of February 6, of magnitude Mw=7.8, occurred, It is located at a plate boundary, where the accumulation of stresses derived from their movement is released in the form of earthquakes. The magnitude of the earthquake in Turkey and its superficial focus, about 17 km (US Geological Survey) imply a great destructive potential”.
And remember that “earthquakes are natural events that cannot be predicted or avoided, therefore, the key is prevention in order to mitigate and minimize their damage as much as possible. Seismic-resistant codes or standards, together with Early Seismic Warning systems, are two of the most effective tools to deal with these natural events and where society’s efforts should be directed”.
The UN supports the rescue efforts and helps the victims of the earthquake
Guterres has expressed the UN’s commitment to rescue and aid efforts for victims and the organization’s aid agencies are already on the ground, such as the emergency medical teams of the World Health Organization (WHO). that they have already received authorization to immediately care for the wounded and the most vulnerable, as declared by its director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Twitter.
These professionals have received a request for international help. “The immediate priority is to support the response at the local level,” said Dr. Catherine Smallwood, the emergency manager coordinating Turkey’s earthquake response for the WHO, because, she explains, despite the fact that Turkey “has a great earthquake response capacity. level of destruction is so great that “they have issued an alert for international medical assistance, and we are coordinating the possible deployment with the Turkish authorities.”
Specialized teams from the United Nations Office for Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) have said they were “ready to deploy”, and the European Union has begun sending search and rescue teams to Turkey. Rescuers from the Netherlands and Romania have also been mobilized, while the UK has announced it will send 76 specialists, rescue teams and dogs.
Earthquake affects humanitarian aid in Syria
Another of the serious consequences of the earthquake, as highlighted by the UN Humanitarian Coordination Office (OCHA) is that, having its epicenter in southern Turkey, one of the affected cities has been Gaziantepun, which is an important center of UN aid for northern Syria.
In other cities in northern Syria, such as Aleppo and Idlib, thousands of buildings have also collapsed, including two hospitals. Millions of people forced to move by the war live in this region and the adverse weather conditions constitute added difficulties when it comes to rescuing all those buried under the rubble, since there have been strong snow storms in parts of Syria and Turkey and Subzero temperatures are expected in the coming days.
Children are part of the population most vulnerable to the consequences of this catastrophe, and the Government of Ankara has issued an official request for international aid and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has confirmed that he was prepared to support emergency response.
“The images we are seeing from Syria and Turkey are heartbreaking,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. “The fact that the initial quake struck so early in the morning, when many children were fast asleep, made it even more dangerous, and aftershocks carry ongoing risks.”
Health and educational facilities such as schools and hospitals are likely to have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes, and damage to roads and other key infrastructure will further complicate search and rescue efforts and the overall humanitarian response.