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Turkey and the curse of the earth: 50 earthquakes in a century


The country, located at the confluence of tectonic plates and crossed by two great faults, has suffered 50 strong earthquakes in the last century. The experts demand to improve the constructions and the preparation of the population

Those who live in Turkey have a special sensitivity to earthquakes.

Every time the ground moves or a door or window shakes, however slightly, however much it may be an almost imperceptible movement for some, the phones begin to ring and the WhatsApp groups are filled with questions: "Did I have you felt?

Is it an earthquake?

Are you OK?".

It is an understandable fear given that who else, who less, in this country has experienced an earthquake of considerable magnitude.

Whether in the far east (Van, in 2011, with more than 600 deaths) or in the west (Izmir, in 2020, with more than 100 deaths), in the south or in the north of the country.

An entire generation that grew up in Istanbul and around the Sea of ​​Marmara – the most populated area in Turkey – has deep traumas from the 1999 earthquake, in which more than 17,000 people died.

Everyone remembers photographically what he was doing in those moments and in the days that followed;

and it is usually one of the stories they tell each other when a friendship begins to take shape, perhaps as a way to exorcise shared ghosts and fears.

Because one of the recurring themes on Turkish television is precisely when will the next big earthquake hit?

“From earthquakes we know where they are going to occur and we know how to explain how they will be, even if they can be strong or not.

But we do not have clear information to predict when they are going to occur ”, explains Eulàlia Masana, professor of Internal Geodynamics at the University of Barcelona, ​​to EL PAÍS.

And Turkey is one of those places where earthquakes are known to occur, because the seismic movements are concentrated at the limits of the tectonic plates and several of them come together in this country.

Turkey is crossed by two great faults: the North Anatolian fault and the East Anatolian fault, along which the earthquake occurred on Monday.

“It is a point where the Anatolian plate converges to the west;

to the east, the Arabian plate;

to the north, the Eurasian plate, and to the southwest, the African one”, explains Masana.

The Arabian plate, explains the expert, moves north at a rate of about two centimeters a year, while the African plate moves in the same direction, although at a slower speed.

The Anatolian one, for its part, is expelled to the west by the movement of the aforementioned faults.

All these movements generate geological tensions in the faults that lead to earthquakes of greater or lesser magnitude.

More information

Earthquake in Turkey and Syria, latest live news

In the last 100 years, there have been more than 50 earthquakes of magnitude equal to or greater than 6 in Turkey, which is equivalent to a “strong” earthquake, which can destroy populated areas in an area greater than 150 kilometers in radius.

More than 80,000 people have died in all of them.

The most serious was the one that occurred in 1939 in the province of Erzincan, with 32,000 deaths, and to which the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has now referred, comparing it to Monday's tragedy.

"We don't know when the next earthquake will occur," continues Masana, "but we do know how to proceed: in areas with great seismic activity: you have to do drills and build earthquake-resistant."

The professor of Geophysical Engineering at the University of Kocaeli, Serif Baris, lamented this Monday on CNN-Türk the lack of preparation of the general population, which often leads to incorrect reactions to earthquakes: people who jump off the window when they feel an tremor or that they take to the road in their vehicles, blocking the roads through which help must arrive.

A few months ago, the Turkish Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) carried out a national test sending alerts to all mobile phones in the country: in many cases they arrived hours after the scheduled time for the drill.

Members of the rescue teams work among the rubble of a collapsed building in the city of Adana (Turkey).

Hussein Malla (AP)

Residents of the town of Gaziantep (Turkey) observe the rescue efforts.


Emergency workers rescue five-year-old Muhammet Ruzgar from the ruins of a building in the city of Hatay, Turkey.


The body of a Syrian child in the rubble of a building in the town of Jandaris, in the province of Aleppo.


A woman cries next to the remains of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Alexandretta.


A resident, after being rescued by emergency services in the Turkish city of Hatay.


Search work for survivors in the city of Alejandreta (Turkey).


Emergency members look for survivors among the rubble of a building in the town of Adana (Turkey). Hussein Malla (AP)

Panoramic view of the Turkish city of Alexandretta after the earthquake, this Tuesday.


Several women cry next to the remains of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Hatay, this Tuesday.


Members of the rescue teams work among the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in Adana (Turkey).

Tolga Ildun / Zuma Press / ContactPhoto (Tolga Ildun / Zuma Press / Conta)

Rescue workers warm themselves at a bonfire in the Syrian town of Sarmada.


A woman is rescued by emergency services in the Turkish city of Alexandretta.


Several residents spend the night on the street in the town of Alejandreta (Turkey).


“We know that there will be earthquakes, we live through them, we have experience because they occur frequently, and sometimes they are very destructive.

And one of the main reasons why they are so destructive is the quality of the constructions,” says the president of the Izmir Chamber of Civil Engineers, Eylem Ulutas Ayatar.

After the 1999 earthquake, which became catastrophic due to the poor quality of many buildings and the poor response capacity of the State, numerous agencies were reformed.

In fact, Turkey's civil protection teams are now among the most experienced in the region.

However, the promise made then that infrastructure and housing would be renovated and inspected has not moved at the same speed.

“The infrastructure inspection system promised in 1999 was only implemented, in pilot mode, in 19 provinces and was not extended to all of Turkey until after the Van earthquake occurred, 12 years later,” explains Ayatar.

Several residents rescued a girl from a collapsed building in the Syrian city of Jandaris on Monday.RAMI AL SAYED (AFP)

In 2011, the then Prime Minister and today President Erdogan promised to renovate the Turkish building stock including anti-seismic measures.

Most new buildings contain them, but experts warn that the legislation is not always followed.

"Now, what the country needs most is cooperation to get those trapped under the rubble, blankets and food for the victims and help to overcome the trauma," adds the engineer.

“But, once it happens, we must ask ourselves why, every time an earthquake occurs, we have to learn the hard way that it is time to apply the laws, technical knowledge and experience that we have to reduce its impact.”

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-02-07

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