7.2 magnitude earthquake hits eastern Turkey

Published: 02/11/2011

Following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the Van region of eastern on Sunday at least 366 people have been reported dead and up to 1300 more injured.

Turkish officials have advised that the death toll is likely to rise as many people are still missing and 2262 buildings have collapsed.

The earthquake struck on Sunday 23 October at a fairly shallow depth of 20km (12 miles), with its epicentre 16km north-east of Van in eastern Turkey, according to the US Geological Survey.

The city of Ercis experienced the worst infrastructure damage, with 25 to 30 buildings collapsing in the city alone, and close to 1000 buildings destroyed in the region. The airport at Van was also damaged, forcing planes to divert to cities nearby and relief teams to travel by road.

Rescue teams have concentrated efforts in Ercis, a town of 100,000. The Turkish Red Crescent distributed up to 13,000 tents, and has been preparing temporary shelter for about 40,000. However relief efforts have come under heavy criticism with many people in the area saying that there is not enough shelter and aid being provided.

It has also been reported that people in the region are angry that some buildings did not withstand the force of the earthquake – they are blaming poor building regulations and the government for not doing more to prevent collapse.

Institution of Structural Engineers’ Director of Engineering and Technical Services, Sarah Fray, spoke about the significance of seismic engineering:

"The importance of seismic engineering is extremely evident when you see the impact of earthquakes on non-engineered buildings."

"Designing buildings to ensure resilience against earthquakes is of vital importance to minimise destruction and the death toll of such events"

Ercis is prone to earthquakes – sitting on major fault lines. Since the earthquake around 200 aftershocks have hit the region.

The Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT) undertook missions following earthquakes in Turkey in 1992 and 1999. The mission reports are free to download from our EEFIT website page.

Past chairman of EEFIT, Matthew Free also provided comment to Reuters on this latest earthquake on behalf of the Institution.

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