Why is Turkey so prone to earthquakes? 

Why is Turkey so prone to earthquakes? 
Turkey is in one of the most seismically volatile areas in the world - making devastating earthquakes all but inevitable for the country.
3 min read
06 February, 2023
The quake was reportedly the worst in Turkey's history [RAMI AL SAYED/AFP via Getty]

Southern Turkey and northwestern Syria were left devastated in a matter of hours by two massive earthquakes, the first of which was reportedly the most powerful ever recorded in the region. 

At least 1,900 people have died across the two countries after the two quakes struck on Monday, according to initial estimates.

The first quake struck near the city of Gaziantep in eastern Turkey, close to the Syrian border, at around 3am local time, and registered around 7.8 on the Richter scale.

Stephen Hicks, a research fellow in seismology at Imperial College London, tweeted that it was as powerful as a 1939 earthquake that killed around 30,000 people in northeast Turkey.

Around 80 miles to the north, at around 1:30pm, a quake hit the Elbistan district of Turkey's Kahramanmaras province, and reportedly measured 7.5 on the Richter scale.

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Earthquakes are common in Turkey, and tremors take place routinely across the country. 

This is because Turkey is located on the Anatolian tectonic plate, which sits between the Eurasian, African and Arabian plates. The movement of these tectonic plates literally squeezes Turkey, creating two volatile fault lines across the country. 

The first, called the North Anatolian fault, traverses from east to west, going just south of Istanbul. Most of Turkey's large earthquakes occur along the North Anatolian fault, and several experts have predicted that this region is due a massive earthquake.

Monday’s earthquakes took place along the East Anatolian fault in the country’s south, close to the Syrian border.

People as far afield as Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Georgia, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan reportedly felt their effects. 

Large earthquakes have been felt across Turkey over the last decade. An earthquake in January 2020 shook the eastern part of the country and killed at least 22 people, and caused tremors in Syria, Georgia and Armenia.

Another quake later the same year near a Greek island close to Turkey’s Aegean coast killed at least 24 people. 

The deadliest earthquake in recent memory was in 1999, when a magnitude 7.4 quake near the western Turkish city of Izmit killed more than 17,000 people.