Devastating 2023 Turkey-Syria Earthquake 

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By Ryan Ryu ’25

The world faced another devastating tragedy in just the second month of the New Year. A huge earthquake killed more than 20,000 people across a swathe of land/territory between Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday. The freezing winter weather added an additional pressure  to the plight of thousands who were injured or homeless and hampered efforts to find survivors.

The initial 7.8-magnitude quake was felt across four countries on Monday morning. It was followed by aftershocks and then a 7.5-magnitude quake in the afternoon. The USGS said that the first quake occurred at 4:17 a.m. local time on Monday and was located 11 miles below the surface near the town of Gaziantep, Turkey. A 7.5-magnitude aftershock was recorded nine hours later about 60 miles north near Elbistan, Turkey. In addition, the US agency recorded more than 75 aftershocks. 

The USGS explained that tectonic plates are massive slabs of rock on the Earth’s crust from 10 miles to 160 miles thick that are always slowly moving. Turkey’s earthquake struck along the East Anatolian fault zone, a region near the junction of the Anatolia, Arabia, and African plates. 

The initial earthquake was one of the largest strike-slip earthquakes to occur on a continent in recent times. Monday’s casualties already mark the highest death toll from an earthquake in Turkey since 1999, when a tremor of similar magnitude devastated the heavily populated eastern Marmara Sea region near Istanbul, killing more than 17,000. Search teams have rescued almost 2,500 people caught under debris in Turkey. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated the earthquake could cause up to 10,000 fatalities and $1 billion in initial economic losses. 

Dozens of countries and organizations, like China, the EU, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Israel, Japan, Korea, Nato, NRC, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine, UAE, the UN, the UK, the US, and the WHO have offered to assist rescue efforts in southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria in response to this disaster that killed thousands of people, and more are expected to help.

US President Joe Biden was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation”. He tweeted “I have directed my team to continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Türkiye and provide any and all needed assistance”.

Photo courtsey to Getty Images

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