Devastating Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria Kill Tens of Thousands; Construction Loopholes Are to Blame


Note: The following link is a resource that provides a legitimate and comprehensive list of charities and organizations that are providing humanitarian relief in response to the earthquakes. Some have used the earthquake crisis as an opportunity to defraud others by creating fake humanitarian aid accounts, so we hope that this resource will be useful in guiding people who wish to donate. In Syria specifically, affected regions have suffered for years as a result of the ongoing war. These people are desperate for aid and every little bit helps.

By Aidan Rubel

LOS ANGELES — On Feb. 6,  2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near Gaziantep, a city with a population of over two million people in south-central Turkey. Northern Syria was also strongly affected.


The earthquake was followed by a series of over 2,100 aftershocks, including one of 7.5 magnitude just nine hours later. Experts say this is no surprise.


Turkey is situated at the crossroads of four major tectonic plates: the Eurasian, Anatolian, African, and Arabian plates. This earthquake was caused by the East Anatolian fault line.


Search-and-rescue teams were dispatched immediately following the earthquakes. These teams found that this series of earthquakes resulted in the deaths of close to 50,000 people, about 40,000 of which were Turkish, with the rest being Syrian. A further 5.3 million Syrians were left homeless, with over one million being displaced in Turkey.


Currently, [more than] two weeks after the onset of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, these search-and-rescue teams are being withdrawn. This is according to the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, which says that these expansive operations have ended in most of the affected provinces.


These numbers are staggering. The strongest ever recorded earthquake, the magnitude 9.5 Valdivia earthquake that shook Chile in 1960, only killed an estimated 5,700 people. That was close to ten times less than the Turkey-Syria earthquake.


The more than 5,600 buildings in Turkey alone destroyed by the earthquakes bring financial damages to tens of billions of dollars.


In a region already suffering from decades of war, these effects are particularly devastating. Sadly, not much could have been done to prevent it.


Despite Turkey and Syria being situated in an area prone to seismic activity,  they were not prepared for an earthquake of this magnitude.


While further regulations have been placed upon construction in Turkey since past disasters, particularly the 1999 earthquake in Izmit, the regulations have not been properly enforced.


But this does not tell the whole story. In Turkey, construction companies are able to purchase “construction amnesties” which render them immune to these regulations. This allows construction companies to build structures wholly unprepared for earthquakes of this magnitude.


Throughout the region most impacted by the recent string of earthquakes, up to 75,000 buildings were built with construction amnesties. Across Turkey, this number reaches close to 13 million, encompassing over half of all buildings in the country.


According to Geologist Celal Sengor, the negligence that allowed for legal amnesties like these to take place in a country as prone to earthquakes as Turkey should be considered a criminal offense.


In an effort to help the people most affected by this tragedy, many countries and groups have given humanitarian aid. The coalition is so bi-partisan, with everyone from the U.S. to the Taliban providing assistance. This aid has ranged from financial assistance and temporary housing units to rescue workers and dogs.

About The Author

Aidan is part of UCLA's class of 2025, majoring in Public Affairs with a minor in Professional Writing. He works as an Editor for the Peoples' Vanguard of Los Angeles and in his free time he enjoys cooking, reading, and going to the gym.

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