How these buildings made Turkey-Syria’s earthquake so deadly

Published on Feb 19, 2023
And can the buildings be fixed?

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On the morning of February 6, a pair of powerful earthquakes, 7.8 and 7.6, hit Turkey and Syria. On top of that, the region was hit with strong aftershocks, which made the destruction even worse. The death toll is already in the tens of thousands with many victims still lying beneath the rubble.

Multiple factors led to this earthquake being so devastating, like fault lines, neighborhoods still reeling from war and delayed rescue missions. But what made this earthquake particularly catastrophic was unsafe buildings. According to the Turkish government, over 6,000 buildings collapsed because of this earthquake. And that’s likely because of the way they were built.

This video will explain how bad building design made the Turkey-Syria earthquake more deadly than it had to be.

Correction: The map at 5:49 has been updated with correct labels. A previous version of this video had incorrectly swapped Peru and Ecuador. Additionally, the animation at 2:32 was updated to reflect the columns can often be made out of brittle concrete.

Sources and further information:

This report from Turkish civil engineers helped us understand the impact the Izmit earthquake had on soft story buildings:

This report published in the Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering gave us some context on the history of Turkey’s building codes:

This explainer by BBC helped us learn more about misleading advertisements in Turkey:

This article published in The Conversation explained why Turkey’s buildings collapse like pancakes:

And we highly recommend this newsletter by Andrew Revkin on losses and lessons from Turkey and Syria’s earthquake

For more of Vox's reporting on Turkey, listen to Today, Explained's episode here:

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