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A major earthquake of magnitude 7.8 hit southeast Turkey and northwest Syria on February 6, 2023, at 04:17 am TRT, before sunrise. The earthquake is believed to be the strongest that Turkey has experienced in this century. The epicentre of the earthquake was found to be near Gaziantep. Within a time frame of 12 hours, at least 41 more earthquakes having a magnitude of 4 or more were recorded in the same area. One of these later earthquakes was again as large as the first one, with a magnitude of 7.5.  

Initially, the death toll was recorded to be around more than 2,200 for both regions collectively. However, the latest reports recorded more than 46,000 (still counting) fatalities in both regions. It has left thousands of people homeless and in a state of despair.

According to the USGS (United States Geological Survey), there are four major tectonic plates- Arabian, Eurasian, Indian, and African- and one smaller tectonic block (Anatolia) that are responsible for the earthquakes in the Middle East and the surrounding region. 

As soon as the news spread, countries around the world offered help to the affected regions. Around 45 countries are providing humanitarian aid. However, the freezing weather is posing a challenge to rescue operations.

Dreadful Impact of the quake

The dreadful earthquake has impacted thousands of lives and wreaked havoc in the region. Thousands of buildings collapsed, hospitals and schools were reduced to debris, and tens of thousands were injured. Several pregnant women have been adversely affected by it. Also, power outages and fuel shortages are adding to the plight of the people.

Syria is unable to get adequate humanitarian aid because of the existing political divisions within the region. The route which connected Syria to Turkey has been damaged, thus causing connectivity issues in providing rescue and relief aid to the affected regions. It has led to a series of heart-wrenching events. A newborn baby was found with her umbilical cord connected to her mother underneath the rubble of a five-story apartment building. Many people are stuck under the rubble, and rescue operations are still going on.

The Cause Behind the quake

Earthquakes are one of the most common natural disasters that cannot be predicted. However, it is known that the movement of tectonic plates is the primary cause of earthquakes. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) said Monday’s earthquake happened around the near-vertical fault line on the eastern Anatolian block, close to the Syrian border. Turkey is located in a seismically active zone, which makes it susceptible to earthquakes. 

The magnitude of an earthquake and its distance from the surface are the two factors that determine how destructive it will be. The first quake, of magnitude 7.8 that hit the region originated 17.9 km below the earth’s surface. All the later earthquakes, even the one with a magnitude of 7.5, occurred even closer to the surface. Studies show shallow earthquakes are generally more dangerous because they carry more energy when they emerge on the surface. Deeper earthquakes tend to be less destructive because they lose much of their energy by the time they reach the surface.

Apart from this, the government of Turkey has issued warrants against 131 contractors who are suspected of being responsible for the collapse of thousands of buildings. They might not have followed the current engineering standard. Thus, making the situation even worse.

India and others as a helping hand

As soon as the news spread, India was one of the first few countries to send help through the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force). Two teams of 100 personnel each were dispatched, each with four canine squads, four-wheeled vehicles, chipping hammers, and first aid. A 99-member medical team was dispatched from Agra’s 60-ParaField Hospital. The medical team comprises orthopaedic surgical specialists, general surgical specialists, and medical specialist teams. Other countries and agencies, such as Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Spain, the WHO, and the UN, have also provided aid to Turkey and Syria.

                                                                                                           -SURABHI SINGH

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