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A map showing Turkey and Syria

We are deeply saddened to hear of the devastating earthquakes in Southern Turkey and Northern Syria.

We offer condolences to all those who have lost loved ones. Our thoughts are with people who may be struggling to contact friends and family as the situation continues to unfold. 

Students and staff who have been affected by these events can find out how to access and also provide support via this page.

Academic comment

Our academic researchers are giving expert comment and analysis on the situation in Turkey and Syria. Any further updates will be posted below.

Thursday 9 February 2023

Commenting on a question about pictures showing the collapse of buildings - referred to as "pancake collapses" - in Turkey, Dr Bartolomeo Panto, Department of Engineering, Durham University, explained what causes this to happen. He said:

“The ‘pancake’ collapse shown by buildings in Turkey consists of the progressive vertical collapse of each floor into the floor below, causing it to fail due to increased stresses produced by dynamic effects.

“The collapse can be triggered by damage to load-bearing elements of a single building level, which lose their capacity to support vertical loads, then the mechanism evolves involving all other levels accumulating more energy until the complete building failure.

“The main reason for these collapses generally is the absence of a specific seismic design to establish a hierarchy of strength among building elements, avoiding damage localisation. Moreover, they can be facilitated by the irregular dispositions of non-structural elements, such as masonry infills in reinforced-concrete buildings.”

Thursday 9 February 2023

Professor Bob Holdsworth FRSE, FGS, in our Department of Earth Sciences, has written for The Conversation UK about why the shallow depth of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes has caused them to be so destructive.

Read Professor Holdsworth’s full article here.

Tuesday 7 February 2023

Commenting on reports that the earthquakes of Monday 6 February have caused the Anatolia tectonic plate (and therefore the country of Turkey) to shift by three metres, Professor Bob Holdsworth FRSE, FGS, in the Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, said:

“Earthquakes occur when sudden slip events occur along geological faults in the Earth’s crust. There is a fairly predictable, widely documented relationship between the magnitude of an earthquake and the typical offset that occurs.

“As a ‘rule of thumb’, a magnitude 6.5-6.9 event is associated with an offset of around one metre – whilst the largest known earthquakes can involve offsets of ten to 15 metres. The faults that slipped yesterday in Turkey are strike-slip faults that involve mainly horizontal displacements and so the overall offsets in the region of three to six metres proposed here are perfectly reasonable.

“Horizontal offsets of this kind can lead to the severing of major subsurface and surface infrastructure, including water mains, electricity cables, gas pipelines and tunnels. There may also be surface ruptures developed where the faults break through to the surface - these can offset roads, rivers and other features – including built structures. All this is in addition to the damage caused by shaking, liquefaction of soft sediment in valleys/basins and landslides.”

Monday 6 February 2023

Dr Jenny Jenkins, in our Department of Earth Sciences, has written for The Conversation UK to explain the Turkey and Syria earthquakes.

Read Dr Jenkins’ full article here.

Monday 6 February 2023

Commenting on a question about how the second magnitude 7.5 earthquake was related to the first magnitude 7.8 earthquake, Professor Mark Allen, Head of the Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, said:

“It looks like the M 7.5 event is on a different fault to the first – the Sürgü Fault, but close enough in time and space to the first event that the second event seems to have been triggered by the first. Earthquakes can transfer stress on to nearby faults, causing them to rupture in new earthquakes. This is usually along the same fault system, but can affect faults nearby – and that’s what seems to have happened in Turkey. It now looks like there are aftershocks to this second major earthquake.”

Commenting on a question asking if the geology of southern Turkey makes it particularly prone to aftershocks and secondary quakes, compared with other earthquake-prone regions such as the Pacific Coast of North America, Professor Allen said:

“I don’t think southern Turkey is particularly prone to aftershocks compared to other tectonically active regions; there are many active faults in south east Turkey and adjacent areas, because the area is at an active plate boundary where the Arabian plate collides with Eurasia and the Anatolian 'microplate'. Much of Turkey is within the Anatolian microplate and is being squeezed out westwards between the East Anatolian Fault (which ruptured today in the M 7.8 event) and the North Anatolian Fault – like a pip between your fingers.”

Monday 6 February 2023

Commenting on the 6 February earthquake in Southern Turkey and Northern Syria, Professor Bob Holdsworth, FRSE, FGS, in the Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, said: 

“The magnitude 7.8 earthquake in southern Turkey is the largest event of this magnitude in this region in modern times. It is all the more damaging as the region struck is relatively densely populated and lies close to northern Syria which has been ravaged by recent conflicts.  

“The shallow depth of the event will also likely have increased its destructive power and the event was followed 11 minutes later by a substantial magnitude 6.7 aftershock. Further aftershocks of smaller magnitude are continuing and pose a significant risk to further collapse of buildings and other structures already damaged by the mainshock. 

“A preliminary location of the earthquake by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) places the earthquake close to the junction between three tectonic plates: Anatolia, Arabia, and Africa. An early analysis of the event suggests that either the East Anatolia fault zone or the Dead Sea transform fault zone is responsible. These are major strike-slip faults similar to the San Andreas fault zone in the western US. 

“The region where the 6 February earthquake occurred is seismically active particularly the vicinity of the East Anatolia fault. Aleppo, in Syria, for example, has been devastated several times historically by large earthquakes, 1138 and 1822. It seems likely that the 6 February event is at least as large in terms of magnitude and – tragically – the loss of life is likely to be substantial.” 

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