As my phone rang in the early morning hours of February 6, I was startled to discover that a terrible earthquake had struck the South-Central region of Türkiye. As the phone continued to ring from relatives expressing their concern for our wellbeing, I had not yet realized how serious the situation had become.
This devastating earthquake struck southern and central Türkiye at a magnitude of 7.8, about 20 miles west-northwest of Gaziantep and western Syria. Then within an hour, another quake struck at a magnitude of 7.7 in Kahramanmaraş Province. My husband’s family, who live in Lebanon, also felt the shocks that prompted them to contact us.
It has been said that these earthquakes shook so hard that it was like an atomic bomb explosion. Many people speak about the loud noise coming out of the earth. In addition to the terrible shock waves, this area of Türkiye was experiencing severe cold and wet weather conditions, making it difficult for rescue efforts. The temperatures plummeted to below zero degrees for several days following the earthquake.
With scattered rain showers and snow, the ability to free the lives of those trapped underneath the rubble—who had already gone days without food and water – were at risk of hypothermia. In addition, due to the uncertainty of the building withstanding the expected aftershocks, many left their homes, struggling to find shelter.
WHY IS TÜRKİYE PRONE TO EARTHQUAKES
Six tectonic plates surround Türkiye. To the east of the Anatolian Plate is the East Anatolian Fault, while to the left is the Transform Fault. To the north and southwest is the African Plate. Finally, to the north of Türkiye is the Eurasian Plate. These plates rotate in the anti-clockwise direction, which causes friction between these plates, resulting in an earthquake.
These plates often try to move but are prevented by the friction of rubbing up against an adjoining one. But sometimes, the pressure builds until one plate suddenly jerks across, causing the surface to move.
In this case, the Arabian plate was moving northwards and grinding against the Anatolian plate. This is also called a strike-slip fault. The movement of the two plates against one another, going in the opposite direction from each other, releasing built-up strain is a strike-slip type of earthquake. The recent earthquakes in Türkiye shifted the tectonic plates around 10 – 20 feet (3-6 meters). As a result, about a 140-mile stretch of the fault between the Anatolian and Arabian Plates ruptured.
Today the death toll is over 50,000 people, the deadliest in their modern history. Adding to the horrible weather conditions, the earthquake occurred in the early morning hours of the day (4:17 AM) when people were in their beds asleep. Over 14 million people have been affected, and more than 1.5 million are homeless. From these two major earthquakes and over 10,000 aftershocks, over 230,000 buildings have been damaged or destroyed across eleven provinces in Turkiye.
Visiting with Turkish people from the region, we learned they evacuated their buildings in their nightclothes, a pair of slippers, and maybe a jacket. As they watched their buildings collapse before their eyes, the reality of not being able to access any of their belongings was heart-wrenching. Yet, all they could say was they were thankful to be alive!
EARTHQUAKE READINESS KIT
Listening to their stories and the challenges they faced ahead of them, I thought to myself about how unprepared I was if I find myself in this situation. I had written before about what to do during an earthquake but didn’t touch on creating an earthquake kit of items needed if my home should collapse or I become a homeless victim.
Here are essential items to have packed in your earthquake readiness kit:
- Save a copy of all important documents, IDs, and Passport images onto a cloud.
- Be able to grab the Passport quickly, driver’s license, and Turkish IDs
- Health Insurance policy
- Car Insurance Policy
- Homeowner Insurance Policy
- Save on your phone and cloud contacts and phone numbers
- Banking Information
- Make sure to save any information you need to access on the cloud.
- If you are a foreigner, register with the embassy (or if you are US citizen register with STEP)
- Jewelry (should be easily accessible to grab)
- Credit cards
Food (3-Day Supply)
Consider the required items for a camping trip when you think of food.
Peanut butter, dried fruits, canned food & meats, candy
Lighter/ Lighter fluid
Small pot to boil water
Charcoal grill for outside cooking needs
Different sizes of Ziplock plastic bags
- Wool Socks
- Gloves and scarf
- Wool hat or cap
- Rain gear/umbrella
- Long sleeve shirt
- Underwear and bra
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Feminine products
- Brush or comb
- Shampoo and soap
- Towel and washcloth
- Toilet paper
- Wet wipes
What To Do When An Earthquakes Occurs
The key to being safe during an earthquake is preparation. Create an earthquake safety plan for you and your loved ones.
- Be sure to identify safe places in each room of your home.
- Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On with each household member.
- This would be near an outer wall, (DROP) kneel in a crouch position and COVER yourself with a comforter or blankets and HOLD on to something until the shaking stops.
- Grab your emergency preparedness kit and have it near you.
- Always have a pair of sturdy shoes near your bedside.
- Don’t rely on doorways for protection.
- Stay away from windows or bookshelves.
- Decide on a meet-up spot if you get separated from family members.
- Make sure to have your phone fully charged and near your bedside.