Ryan Pringle ’25, Staff Writer

As the month of February comes to a close, and we look forward to the new opportunities presented by March, it is important to reflect on the tragic events that unfolded earlier in February.  For nearly the first half of the month, the international news media was dominated by the story of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the Middle-East, and rightfully so, as the disaster heralded great devastation in the already struggling region.  As there has now been time for the dust to settle, both literally and metaphorically, the story of the earthquake can be more closely analyzed and discussed.

Putting things into Perspective:

To truly understand how serious the 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake was, it is important to compare it to prior earthquakes, both those within the region and those more generally.  The earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6 at about four in the morning (per Turkish time), with the epicenter located in Sehitkamil district, along the border with neighboring Syria.  The quake only lasted about 80 seconds, but it registered an impressive 7.8 on the seismic magnitude scale, and was followed by a similar 7.7 magnitude quake only 9 hours later, alongside more than 2,100 recorded aftershocks.  The last time Turkey experienced an earthquake of this scale was in 1939, where another 7.8 magnitude quake struck Erzincan province in the northern part of the country.  This new 2023 earthquake is one of the strongest to be recorded in Turkish history, second only to an 8.0 magnitude earthquake from 1668, also located in the northern part of the country.

The 2023 earthquake is also noteworthy for its still rising death toll, which currently stands at over 51,000, a figure that is sure to rise as rescue and clean-up efforts continue.  The earthquake is the deadliest to affect Syria since the 1822 Aleppo earthquake, which registered a 7.0 magnitude.  Globally it is the deadliest since the infamous 2010 Haiti earthquake, another 7.0 magnitude event that caused even more devastation and claimed more than 100,000 lives.  Out of all the earthquakes that have been compared to this tragedy however, the most apt comparisons can be drawn to the 526 Antioch earthquake, which struck the ancient Roman city of Antioch (the ruins of which are now located in southern Turkey).  The death toll of this ancient earthquake is still uncertain, but most of the people killed because of it died not from the initial event, but rather from a botched rescue effort, which is something that the 2023 earthquake sadly shares in common.

Maps: 7.8-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel -  The New York Times
Source: U.S. Geological Survey / Per the New York Times

Rescue Complications:

As soon as the earthquake hit in the early hours of the morning, the Turkish government mobilized search-and-rescue teams to help save as many lives as possible; however, they faced an immense challenge in achieving their objectives.  Important infrastructure had been utterly annihilated by the earthquake, including the main airport in Hatay province, alongside other vital transportation networks.  These complications made it difficult to import foreign aid locally, and hampered the ability to move larger rescue equipment.  Additionally, as if things were not already bad enough, a massive winter storm was passing through the region at the same time as the earthquake.  The cold weather put stress on the rescue teams, and deposited large amounts of snow on top of the ruined buildings, leading to some victims freezing to death.

Some criticism has also been levied at the Turkish government due to the earthquake.  Many observers outside of Turkey, and even some within the country, have claimed that the government did not put enough effort into the rescue operation, which resulted in the deaths of people who could have otherwise been saved.  Additionally, the extreme ease with which many buildings affected by the earthquake collapsed has placed scrutiny upon the Turkish government’s lax and often unenforced construction regulations.  Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to brush off these accusations by claiming that most of the ruined buildings were built prior to his administration, though his opponents have cast doubt upon these claims.

Severe weather hampers earthquake rescuers in Turkey and Syria | Turkey-Syria  Earthquake News | Al Jazeera
Source: Courtesy of Al Jazeera

The Aftermath:

Luckily for Turkey, the international community pitched in to help support rescue operations, with more than 100 countries pledging to give humanitarian aid, and teams of search-and-rescue dogs being sent to help find people who are buried beneath the rubble.  Syria has sadly not received nearly as much support, due no doubt in part to the brutal rule of the country’s dictator Bashar Al-Assad, though it should be noted that the damage in Syria was far less severe than the damage in Turkey.  As the situation stands at the end of February, more than 100,000 people are being treated for injuries sustained during the earthquake and aftermath, and roughly 1.5 million people are currently homeless.  During the chaos that followed the earthquake, many of these people sought refuge anywhere they could, including schools, hospitals, supermarkets, mosques, etc.  Mobile soup kitchens have been set up in the region to assist the homeless, and some countries have sent temporary housing units to hold people until buildings can be reconstructed.

The 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake perfectly illustrates the importance of emergency planning, and being ready for when, not if, disasters like this strike.  Immaculata University’s very own Dr. George Schwartz is very knowledgeable about this topic, and directs the Emergency Management and Planning major. For those interested in helping people struggling in the aftermath of this disaster, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has a Disaster Response Emergency Fund, which is currently dedicated to assisting with relief efforts in both Turkey and Syria. Here are links to the Syria and Turkey funds if you wish to donate:



And to close this article on a personal note, I would ask that everyone who reads this keeps the people of Turkey and Syria in their hearts, and prays for them during this turbulent time.