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The Devastating Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

Relevance : GS Paper- 1: Physical geography


Two large earthquakes hit South-eastern Turkey on February 6, causing widespread damage and claiming thousands of lives.


The first quake was of magnitude 7.8 followed by another of magnitude 7.5. The earthquakes have left a trail of destruction and many are still recovering from the impact.


In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what caused these earthquakes, the type of earthquake that occurred, and why they were so devastating and deadly.

What Causes Earthquakes?

  • The Earth’s crust is made up of tectonic plates that are constantly in motion
  • Plate collision, push, and grating against each other create faultlines at the meeting points of these plates
  • The pent-up energy along these faultlines is released when an imbalance in pressure causes rocks on either side of the fault to re-adjust
  • The energy released travels as waves causing the ground to shake

What Kind of Earthquake Occurred in Turkey and Syria?

  • Turkey and Syria lie at the confluence of three plates: the Arabian Plate, the Anatolian Plate, and the Eurasian Plate
  • The region is seismically active due to the movement of the Arabian Plate into Europe and the pushing of the Anatolian Plate to the west
  • The earthquakes were from a “strike-slip” which is typical of earthquakes in the region

Read Also: Major Earthquake In Turkey and Syria


Why Were These Earthquakes So Devastating and Deadly?

  • The region is host to many fault systems and experiences many earthquakes, but only those with energy releases above a certain threshold are captured by seismological instruments
  • The February 6th event was much larger than earthquakes the area has experienced before with a magnitude of 7.8
  • The fault system runs along nearly 190 km, which is why the impact was so far-ranging
  • The second earthquake, of 7.5 magnitude, occurred further to the north on a different but adjacent fault system, causing even more damage
  • The magnitudes of these earthquakes suggest there will be several aftershocks that can be registered in a wide radius
  • Reports of shakes from as far away as Cairo (950 km) and Istanbul (815 km) away have been reported

Similarities to Earthquakes in India:

  • The Himalayas were formed by the Indian Plate colliding into the Eurasian plate and tilting upwards
  • The most common type of earthquake in the Himalayan region is due to reverse faults caused by compressive forces between the two plates
  • Scientists have warned of a massive, overdue earthquake in the Garhwal-Kumaon range in India
  • Based on slip and strain measurements, scientists deduce that latent pressure is building up along a fault and that a major earthquake is overdue
  • Records suggest that past earthquakes haven’t released all the pent-up energy, making a major earthquake likely
  • Predictions of the day an earthquake will occur are beyond the current ken of science

Energy from Latent Pressure:

  • Energy from nearly 300 years of accumulated strain was released in the Turkey-Syria earthquakes
  • The magnitude of earthquakes does not correspond directly to death and devastation
  • Chile, a country with a long history of devastating earthquakes, has low casualties due to strict enforcement of building codes
  • The 9-magnitude earthquake in Fukushima did not damage the stability of the structure, but the cost of earthquake-proofing rises exponentially
  • If structures are built on a fault line, no amount of engineering can save them
  • A lack of enforcement of building codes and timing of earthquakes can lead to death and devastation, as seen in Turkey
  • India has rules on building codes but limited enforcement, resulting in damage like the 1993 Latur earthquake


The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have been devastating, leaving a trail of destruction and claiming many lives. The region is seismically active due to the movement of tectonic plates, and the earthquakes were caused by the release of pent-up energy along these faultlines.


The magnitudes of these earthquakes and their far-ranging impact have made them particularly devastating and deadly.


It is important to remember the victims of these earthquakes and to continue supporting the relief efforts in the affected areas.

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February 2024