The Deadliest Earthquake of the Decade

Shikha S (Year 9)

“I can’t describe how long it lasted because of the pain, fear, anger that I felt. I saw my entire life flash in front of me and I was frozen with fear. I looked at my wife and children while the building was shaking, and I felt so helpless”- Save the Children (2023) 

On Monday the 6th of February two earthquakes hit Turkey, one of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria causing widespread damage and shockwaves throughout the community. The epicentre of this tragic event was Nugradi, a district in Gaziantep and a major city in South Central Turkey. The aftershock of this earthquake was felt in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel and affected approximately 100 km of the fault line, leaving a trail of damage.   

This natural disaster has resulted in a plethora of deaths across Turkey and surrounding countries and according to the UN, the death toll has reached over 37,000 in Syria and Turkey.  

Among the rising death toll are Burak Firik and his mother, two members of a family from Queens, New York who were travelling to Turkey to visit relatives. The Firik family has said, “My family has lost the light of our lives and have been grief stricken since hearing this news”.  

However, hope has prevailed through various small rescues which have been sought as a form of global comfort.  

An infant coined as ‘the baby born in rubble’ was birthed amidst the chaos of the Earthquake, and rescued hours later, still attached to her mother by the umbilical cord. The newborn, now called Aya, was stumbled upon by brother-in-law Khalil al Shami who was searching for family. Despite this miracle, unfortunately, none of Aya’s family could be saved.  

This natural disaster has had harrowing effects on Turkish people, with a spokesman for the UN children’s agency Joe English saying, “It is unlikely that a single child has emerged unscathed in the areas that have been devastated by the earthquake, physically or psychologically”.   

Seismologists have projected that this natural disaster is set to be the deadliest of the decade, due to the severity of this earthquake relying on factors such as time, location and the weakness of many buildings which collapsed. Seismologists said this earthquake is the likeliest to be the deadliest disaster this decade due to the gap estimating more than 100 kilometres between the Anatolian and Arabian plates. This earthquake was a strike-slip quake meaning two tectonic plates slid past each other horizontally to create this groundbreaking force.  

Currently, volunteers are stuck in the “midst of this tragedy” taking drastic measures to find survivors under the rubble. Victims are drowned in grief seeking shelter in the frigid temperature after losing everything. One survivor, in particular, shared that he and his family spend two days in “the rain and freezing conditions before reaching the makeshift shelters”. Although the situation appears tough there are many hopes and plans to repair and restore the wounded city. 

Although many have been lucky enough to be salvaged alive there are many who could not be saved. It has been over a week since the earthquake making it more likely to only find bodies, with “White Helmets” (an organisation of around 3000 volunteers) announcing the end of their search and rescue operations by Friday.