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Deadliest Earthquake in Modern History Hits Turkey and Syria, Causes Billions in Damage and Affects Millions

On February 6, 2023, an earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude hit southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border. This was followed by another earthquake measuring 7.5 magnitude around 59 miles southwest nine hours later. The earthquake near Gaziantep in south-central Turkey was the strongest recorded there since 1939 and the most devastating earthquake to hit Turkey in more than 20 years. The Turkish government responded by declaring a level-4 emergency and calling for international assistance, and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent led the coordination efforts. Governments around the world sent rescue teams and offered aid.

As of March 1, more than 11,000 aftershocks have occurred, and more are expected in the future. The confirmed death toll is 59,259, with 50,783 in Turkey and 8,476 in Syria. This makes it the deadliest earthquake in Turkey since the 526 Antioch earthquake and the deadliest natural disaster in its modern history. Damages were estimated at US$104 billion in Turkey and US$14.8 billion in Syria, making them the fourth-costliest earthquakes on record.

Approximately 18 million people in Turkey and Syria were affected by the earthquake. An estimated 14 million people, or 16 percent of Turkey's population, were affected, with 1.5 million people left homeless. At least 15.73 million people and 4 million buildings were affected, with 345,000 apartments destroyed. More than 2 million residents in the affected provinces were evacuated to nearby provinces. Over 20 percent of Turkey's agricultural production was affected, and the United Nations stated that crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture, and rural infrastructure were heavily damaged. At least 516 university buildings were affected, with 106 heavily damaged.

In Syria, 8,476 people died, and over 14,500 were injured. Among the dead were 2,153 children and 1,524 women. The Syrian Ministry of Health recorded over 2,248 earthquake-related deaths and 2,950 injuries in government-held areas, most of which were in the governorates of Aleppo and Latakia. In rebel-held areas, at least 4,547 people died, and 2,200 others were injured. The Syrian Network for Human Rights stated that 73 medics, five media personnel, 62 workers in humanitarian agencies, and four civil defense personnel were among the dead.

The earthquake has put 2.5 million children in Turkey, many of whom are Syrian refugees, at an increased risk of poverty, child labor, or child marriage. Turkey is home to the largest number of refugees globally, with about 3.6 million Syrians, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. Turkey's Ministry of Interior reported that 2.6 million people are living in tent cities, while 1.6 million are living in informal sites or alongside their damaged homes, most in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Catastrophic damage to agricultural infrastructure in 11 provinces is disrupting basic food production and livelihoods for rural people.

The earthquake has exacerbated the effects of the ongoing war in Syria, with 3.7 million children facing a deepening crisis. The situation in both Turkey and Syria remains dire, and relief efforts are ongoing. The international community is continuing to support the affected regions with aid, medical supplies, and other forms of assistance to help the affected people recover from this tragedy.


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