Monday morning in Turkey was rocked by a series of powerful earthquakes and aftershocks that left destruction and death in their wake. The most powerful of these earthquakes registered 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, making it one of the five most powerful earthquakes recorded in the 21st century. The effects of this disaster have been felt as far away as Lebanon and Israel, and it is estimated that the death toll could reach 10,000 people. In this blog post, we will look at the events of Monday, the destruction caused by the earthquakes, and the humanitarian crisis that is now unfolding.

The Earthquake and Aftershocks
The first earthquake, at 4:17 am local time in Turkey (Sunday evening in the United States), was followed later in the day by another powerful temblor hundreds of kilometers away, at magnitude 7.5, as well as additional aftershocks. These earthquakes appeared to be occurring along the East Anatolian Fault, which divides the Eurasian tectonic plate to the north from the Anatolian plate to the south. Early death counts had already exceeded 1,600 people, with preliminary estimates from the US Geological Survey indicating that 1,000 to 10,000 people have died, and economic losses equal to 1 to 2 percent of Turkey’s gross domestic product.

Destruction and Humanitarian Crisis
Earthquakes of this magnitude produce violent shaking of the ground and landslides and can level buildings. Early images and videos from the region showed multiple collapsed structures, including high-rise buildings. The largest metro area near the earthquake was the city of Gaziantep, which has a population exceeding 2 million people. The most iconic feature of this city is Gaziantep Castle, constructed on top of a hill in the middle of the city, which was significantly damaged as the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region.

The effect of these earthquakes extended from Southern Turkey into Northern Syria, a war-torn area including the provinces of Aleppo, Hama, and Lataki. This will create a humanitarian crisis, with cold weather and rain and snow falling in the vicinity of populated areas. Hundreds of thousands of structures may be deemed unfit for even temporary habitation in the wake of Monday’s earthquakes.

It was not clear when this spate of earthquakes would end, as powerful aftershocks were continuing in the region late on Monday night local time. The most powerful and deadly earthquake of the 21st century occurred in December 2004, when a magnitude 9.3 event in the Indian Ocean triggered a massive tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

The destruction and death toll from Monday’s earthquakes in Turkey is still unfolding, and will likely continue to grow in the coming days and weeks. Our thoughts are with the people of Turkey and the Middle East during this difficult time.