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February 6th: The Hardest Night

On February 6, 2023, two devastating earthquakes successively hit southern Türkiye.

  • The first, at 04.17, a magnitude of 7.7 earthquake struck Kahramanmaraş.

  • It was followed by the second powerful quake at 13.24 with a magnitude of 7.5, in another province of Kahramanmaraş.

After these, the activity of the area continued by thousands of aftershocks.

Afad official Orhan Tatar draws attention to the unusual process” The average number of earthquakes measured by AFAD's earthquake department in a year is around 22 thousand. But the number of aftershocks produced by these earthquakes in just 3.5 months is around 38 thousand.

The two powerful earthquakes affected many cities:

Adana, İskenderun, Osmaniye, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Şanlıurfa, Adıyaman, Malatya...

  • 38 thousand 901 buildings were flattened during the earthquake in Türkiye and more than 311 thousand of them became unusable.

  • 11 thousand 488 search and rescuers have come from 93 different country.

  • 35 thousand 250 search and rescuers have worked in total.

  • The confirmed dead toll is 53 thousand 537 in Türkiye and 8,476 in Syria.

-- According to the Global Catastrophe Recap, the earthquake became the deadliest global disaster since 2010. --

The fatal disaster caught people in their sleep, trapping them under the debris of their homes. Families had nothing to do but desperately hope for a plain sound from their relatives. Rescue teams had searched for signs of life beneath the rubble for days, even weeks.  

It was not easy for the surviving ones too… Not only have they fought over the pain of losing loved ones but also the weather. The coldest part of the year, sub-zero degrees, rainy and snowy weather... Power cuts occurred. Thousands of people were outside without supplies and had nothing to keep warm...


Since 1900, Türkiye has had 21 earthquakes that are magnitude of seven or larger:

-11 of them on the North Anatolian fault,

-5 of them on the extensions of the is North Anatolian fault,

-3 of them on the Eastern Türkiye,

-2 of them on the East Anatolian fault, which are the earthquakes that occurred on 6 February.

The 1939 Erzincan earthquake was the most powerful earthquake in modern Türkiye history, which happened on the North Anatolian fault. Its magnitude was 7,8 and the dead toll was 32.962. 

an image after the earthquake from 1939 Erzincan

The 1100km long NAF has created from 1939 to 1999 seven earthquakes

with a magnitude of 7 or larger, like the Erzincan, Muş, and Gölcük earthquakes. Thus, it released a huge amount of energy.

As for the East Anatolian Fault line, since 1900 ( since the movements of the East Anatolian Fault line began to be measured), there has not been a quake in the magnitude of “6 February Earthquakes”. The last earthquake bigger than 7 magnitude that occurred in the region was in 1893.

Professor Osman Bektaş reports that:  ” The faultline of East Anatolian was active for the long term whereas the places where the 6 February earthquakes took place was calm since the 1500s. There was a seismic gap. So, the earthquakes were expected.

Why did it affect such a large area?

  1.   The first quake was 8.6 km, and the second was 16,4 km deep underground. These depths might seem like a long distance. However, both are called “shallow earthquakes” which leave heavy damage. 

  2.   The earthquakes were at devastating magnitudes because the Anatolian plate is continually under pressure.

 In a WSJ interview, Professor Michael Steckler from Columbia University said that the region is one of the most complicated parts of the world:

The Arabian plate presses it upward against the Eurasia plate. And that pressure is squeezing the Anatolian plate westward where it faces even more friction from the African plate which is also moving upward.

From the Wall Street Journal, The Science Behind the Massive Turkey-Syria Earthquakes

The fault lines are “strike-slip faults” that when the friction created by plates squeezing each other is too much, they slip. Thus, Anatolia moves to the west whereas Africa and Arabia move to the east. *

The part where quakes took place is the Arabian, African, and Anatolian plates’ conjunction area.

-- The February 6 quake is the deadliest earthquake in the area since the 526 Antioch earthquake. --


Economic Results:

  • The economic loss is $92 billion according to the Turkish Government, the World Bank, the UN, and the EU.

  • It is by far the costliest and the deadliest event in both countries’ modern history.

-- It is the 11th costliest disaster on record globally on a price-inflated basis. --

Here the table shows the huge economic loss in Türkiye which is left by the earthquakes :

from AON Q3 Global Catastrophe Recap, October 2023

The table shows the economic loss events in 2023 between quarters 1 to 3.

~ The main reason for the destruction is simply weak buildings.

In an interview that BBC made with Geology professor Osman Bektaş reports that "The quake hit the weakest region in terms of building stock, therefore destroyed many of the buildings." Furthermore, disaster management professor Mikdat Kadıoglu says that "The number of buildings is far beyond the manageable number, thus the rescue teams could only reach a small number of them"

Türkiye had faced many earthquakes before Kahramanmaraş quakes but no precautions had been taken. Scientists warned the public from well-known TV channels and officials were aware of the danger too. But still, many buildings were built, and constructors did not comply with the regulations. All these costed thousands of lives.

The experts warn the public and officials of the potential Istanbul earthquake too. If no precaution is taken, its consequences are likely to be even worse.

     One year after the disaster…

Many people are still in tents and containers and they are trying to recover the damage mentally and physically that the catastrophe has left.  

  • 411 container cities were built, which include 215 bin 224 containers.

The aid that has been being sent around the country to meet basic needs has nearly stopped. Now the needs for the long term such as schools are more necessary. Aiding organizations are still working to meet long-term needs.

For example, the “Ahbap” association actively sustains their help in the affected cities. The association has completed 3 prefabricate schools which started education in September and started building 21

other schools also met the stationary needs of students. Furthermore, they provided fattening feed to the villages that live on animal husbandry and food for stray animals.


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