By Daniela Morales, 10th Grade
On February 6, 2023, Turkey and its next-door neighbor Syria, suffered from a terrible earthquake with a 7.8 magnitude at around 4 a.m. After the initial tremor, more than 60 aftershocks, earthquakes that follow the principal one, were reported (Mogul, 2023 ). One of these aftershocks was especially detrimental, since it had a magnitude similar to the initial earthquake, 7.5, and did not give people the time to recover as it happened only 9 hours after (Turak, 2023). The earthquake mainly affected the province of Gaziantep, a city called Nurdagi, and other neighboring cities such as Diyarkabir.
Initially, on the day the earthquake happened, at least 4,300 deaths were reported including fatalities in both countries. However, as the days progressed, rescuers found more people that were taken with the rubble. Up until february 11, more than 28,000 people from both countries have passed away (BBC, 2023). Most of these casualties belong to Turkey, not to mention the people that were injured and those that became homeless. Hearing about this crisis, entities like the World Health Organization, the European Union, and NATO members like the United States and surprisingly, Greece, a long-time Turkish rival, have sent aid in the form of rescuers or money to help Turkey.
However, the grief, fear, and anger people feel cannot be taken away, and all of those feelings are mostly targeted at Erdogan, Turkey’s president. Many people felt that the government’s response was not effective enough, because in cities like Adiyaman, while rescuers, who took a long time to get there were digging through the debris, the people that were outside of their crumbled homes did not have where to go. A lot of them chose to spend the night outside despite the cold, because they either did not have where to go or because they were afraid that if they got into one of the few unscathed buildings it would collapse. Other people were angry at the government because following the earthquake it banned Twitter for twelve hours, which many people think is a platform that could’ve helped them communicate with the outside world and even spread information about their missing family members.
Lastly, others are angry at the fact that this could’ve been prevented if the government had better architectural regulations (Holmes et al, 2023). Analyzing whether rescuers took too much time to get to a certain location or if the government could’ve set up shelters faster is a bit more complex because there are many factors to take into account. However, what is factual information and can undoubtedly be attributed as something that could’ve been prevented and that worsened the situation is the lack of governmental preoccupation with Turkey’s architectural safety measures. On February 10, BBC wrote an article that gives an answer to the main question surrounding this catastrophe: “Why did so many buildings collapse?”
There are many viral videos of the earthquake where modern buildings, constructed only a year ago, fall to shambles. Experts say that if the latest earthquake regulations for buildings in Turkey, which were released in 2018 had been applied, there’s no reason why even accounting for the magnitude of the earthquake the buildings would’ve fallen. The 2018 regulations state that buildings located in territories prone to earthquakes should have “high-quality concrete reinforced with steel bars”.
Sadly, the government is giving architects and engineers a way of escaping these regulations if they pay for a “construction amnesty’. This is a fee that lets you construct even if you are violating some safety measures. The effects of these amnesties are unbelievable. Since 2018, over half of Turkey’s constructions have been built with some sort of amnesty. A reported 75,000 buildings across the zones where the earthquake struck had amnesties too. Not to say all of these buildings collapsed, but inevitably some of them did and most had the risk of doing so. The disaster that occurred in Turkey and Syria will be remembered by their citizens for a long time, who are currently suffering, and should be taken by authorities as an example of what they should be prepared to address in the future.
Rhoden-Paul, K. A. & A. (2023, February 11). Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll passes 28,000 as rescue hopes dwindle. BBC News. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-64608535
NatashaTurak. (2023, February 9). Turkey’s devastating earthquake comes at a critical time for the country’s future. CNBC. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.cnbc.com/2023/02/09/turkey-earthquake-comes-at-a-critical-time-for-the-countrys-future.html
Mogul, R., Tuysuz, G., Sariyuce, I., Damanhoury, K. E., & Picheta, R. (2023, February 7). More than 4,300 dead in Turkey and Syria after powerful Quake. CNN. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/05/europe/earthquake-hits-turkey-intl-hnk/index.html
Alex Holmes, Z. J. and A. J. K. (2023, February 9). Anger grows in Turkey as earthquake death toll passes 20,000 and rescue hopes dwindle. CNBC. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.cnbc.com/2023/02/09/plight-of-homeless-deepens-as-turkey-syria-earthquake-death-toll-rises.html
Armstrong, J. H. & W. (2023, February 9). Turkey earthquake: Why did so many buildings collapse? BBC News. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.bbc.com/news/64568826