Catastrophic Earthquake in Turkey & Syria


Matthew McCoy, Staff Writer

Turkey, otherwise called Türkiye in diplomatic settings,  is a country located in Southeastern Europe and Southwestern Asia that has a population of 84.78 million people. Turkey has been led by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since August 2014.  Syria is located in Western Asia with a population of 21.32 million people. The leader of Syria has been president Bashar al-Assad since July 2000. On February 6th, 2023 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck both of these countries leaving them with a death toll exceeding 46,000 and full urban areas in debris. 


According to the World Health Organization, more than 26 million people require assistance in the two countries. This earthquake devastated countless people and was called “the worst natural disaster in the region for a century,” by Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s European director. It is called the worst natural disaster for a multitude of reasons. The border between Turkey and Syria is very close to the Anatolian fault line. The Anatolian fault line is where many geologic plates interact including the African, Anatolian, Eurasian, and Arabian. Turkey and Syria sit on top of this fault line, and the plates are always moving, making the site extremely vulnerable to earthquakes. The seismologist Susan Hugh compared this site to “squeezing a watermelon seed between your fingers – it stays in place until the pressure builds and the seed ultimately pops out.” What made this earthquake a tragedy was the infrastructure of the buildings in the affected countries. Many of the buildings in Turkey and Syria are considered poorly designed because they continue to fall into a “pancake mode” and collapse in on themselves. Many of the buildings that collapsed were made of concrete and did not have reliable seismic reinforcement. Deadly earthquakes in this region have happened before due to similar infrastructural problems. Around 24 years ago in 1999, the industrial city of İzmit had 20,000 buildings fall and nearly 19,000 people died. 

Syria has withstood over a decade of constant internal struggle before this earthquake occurred. The Syrian humanitarian crisis has caused very high tension within the country, but that is not the only thing that Syria has been struggling with. Earlier this year, Syria had hit its very lowest economic point since the beginning of its internal struggles in 2012. Life in most of Syria, especially its capital, Damascus, has become very dormant. The cost of living has skyrocketed and simple needs for a living have become near impossible to obtain. There has also been an outbreak of cholera in recent months following up to the devastation. The current humanitarian situation has caused aid efforts within the country to severely dwindle. 


There has been rising rage in Turkey because of the halt of rescue missions throughout most of the country. The Turkish government has been arresting contractors of buildings that have fallen and caused the death of the residents. There have been 113 arrest warrants since the earthquake. Officials have said that more than 6,000 buildings have either fallen due to the shock or been damaged beyond restoration. 


The earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on February 6th, 2023, was a catastrophic event that left the two countries devastated. The death toll of over 46,000 and the countless number of people requiring assistance demonstrate the scale of this disaster. The earthquake was worsened by the infrastructure of the buildings in the affected areas, with many buildings poorly designed and unable to withstand the earthquake’s force. Syria, already struggling with a humanitarian crisis and a dire economic situation has been hit hard by this disaster, severely affecting the aid efforts within the country. Turkey has seen rising anger due to the halt of rescue missions and the arrest of contractors of fallen buildings. The tragedy of this earthquake is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of these countries to natural disasters.


Aid from all parts of the world has poured into the affected areas. The United Nations has supplied the aid effort with 1.4 billion dollars to help the countless communities destroyed by the earthquake. Countries like the United States have also supplied financial assistance to the communities by sending 100 million dollars. The group Humanity & Inclusion has been accepting donations to help relieve some of the conditions. They are accepting donations here.