Where are the epicenters of earthquakes in the world?
The death toll from the tragic earthquake in Turkey and Syria topped 20,000 as buildings collapsed and people were inside in the early hours of February 6 when the first quake struck.
Although countries and regions such as Japan and California are known for their earthquakes, Turkey and Syria are located in a seismically active zone where three tectonic plates converge.
While it is impossible to predict exactly where and when earthquakes will occur, we do know that the worst events will occur along plate boundaries.
Here, MailOnline takes a look at earthquake sites around the world, including Italy, New Zealand and Indonesia, and the seething plates below them.
Earthquakes are known to occur in subduction zones, when two tectonic plates that are slowly sliding in opposite directions meet and then suddenly slide rapidly.
David Rothery, professor of planetary geology at the Open University, told MailOnline: “The earthquake occurs at a place where stress, which has been built up gradually over decades of friction, is finally able to overcome resistance. This allows neighboring mountain ranges to suddenly rise and touch each other.”
Large earthquakes usually occur over fault lines where tectonic plates meet, but small tremors can occur in the middle of these plates.
The epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude quake was about 16 miles (26 km) east of the Turkish city of Nordaghi, close to the Syrian border.
A few hours later, another earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale struck two and a half miles southeast of the Turkish city of Ikinosu.
Turkey lies on major fault lines that border three different tectonic plates – Anatolian, Arabian and African.
The Arabian Plate is pushing north against the Eurasian Plate and pushing the Anatolian Plate west against the Aegean Sea.
Dr. Anastasios Sixt, professor of seismic resistance at the University of Bristol, told MailOnline: “This is an area well known for its strong earthquakes. centuries ago.”
Monday’s quake caused such devastation in part because of its magnitude – it’s the strongest earthquake to hit Turkey since 1939 – and the fact that it hit a populated area.
Another reason is that it happened at 04:17 local time, which means that the sleepers were trapped when their houses collapsed.
To the west, Italy can be prone to earthquakes, especially the 6.2 magnitude quake that killed about 300 people in the city of Amatrice and nearby villages in 2016.
In 2012, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Modena in northern Italy, killing 17 people and injuring 350.
A much milder 2.6 magnitude earthquake hit about a mile north of Camaiore in 2020, forcing people to leave their homes just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost the entire Italian Peninsula, especially its southern part, is located near the dividing line between the Eurasian and African plates, which intertwine: collide or subarc one under the other, like the African sub-Eurasian, for example, in most places to form the Alpine ridge.
The Apennine Mountains, known as the geological backbone of Italy, stretch from the north to the south of the country and contain many fault lines where two tectonic plates converge.
Somewhere between 80 and 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur in an area known as the “Ring of Fire”.
This geological disaster area is shaped like a horseshoe on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
It covers the west coast of the United States, especially California, the western part of Mexico, Central America, and the western part of South America, including Peru, New Zealand, Japan, and others. A place like California is prone to earthquakes because it sits on the San Andreas Fault, where two tectonic plates converge.
The San Andreas Fault extends nearly 750 miles across the western US state, with the Pacific Plate on one side and the Pacific Plate on the other.
The vast majority of Californians live near the San Andreas Fault, which is part of the Ring of Fire and can even be seen on the ground.
The existence of the San Andreas Fault came to world attention on April 18, 1906, when a sudden movement along the fault caused the San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires.
The 7.9 magnitude quake has killed more than 3,000 people, the largest natural disaster death in California history.
There are thousands of small earthquakes in Southern California every year, but locals are calling the upcoming larger event a “big event” that will cause catastrophic damage.
A 2015 USGS report warned that the risk of a “major catastrophe” for California had risen sharply.
“We know that tectonic forces are constantly compressing the springs of the San Andreas fault system, making major earthquakes inevitable,” said Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.
On the other side of the ring is the country that suffers the most from earthquakes, Japan.
The main island of Japan, Honshu, is located at the junction of three tectonic plates – the Eurasian, Philippine and North American.
In March 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan triggered a tsunami that killed more than 18,400 people.
The tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, destroying power and cooling systems and causing the meltdown of three reactors.
But Japan is also one of the most earthquake-prepared countries. For example, buildings are reinforced with concrete walls and special seams that relieve pressure when the ground shakes.
Meanwhile, skyscrapers are built with shock absorbers and a “flex structure” that allows them to flex horizontally.
In comparison, the death toll from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria is considered very high, partly due to the collapse of poorly built structures.
In Japan, participation in disaster education starts in kindergarten, and all Japanese mobile phones come with an earthquake alert system that can give users 5 to 10 seconds to find shelter before an earthquake hits.
New Zealand sits on the boundary between two tectonic plates, the Australian Plate and the Pacific Plate, although its larger neighbor, Australia, which is farther from the boundary, experiences less violent tremors.
One of New Zealand’s worst disasters was the 6.3 magnitude Christchurch earthquake in February 2011, which killed 185 people and severely damaged the city’s buildings and infrastructure.
This event was actually a continuation of another earthquake last September that killed two people.
The strongest known earthquake in New Zealand, with a magnitude of 8.2, occurred in Wairarapa in 1855.
The earthquake was then triggered by movement along a fault in Palliser Bay, on the southern tip of the North Island, and changed the landscape of the Wellington region.
However, the death toll is estimated at only five to nine, and surprisingly few people were injured.
China is not part of the Ring of Fire, but is located in the area where the Pacific Plate, Indian Plate and Philippine Plate converge.
Unfortunately, a large number of poor quality buildings and a high population density mean that earthquakes in China can lead to an increase in the death toll.
China has been the site of some of the deadliest earthquakes in history, and two of the deadliest earthquakes of the 20th century have affected the country.
The 1976 Tangshan earthquake killed at least 300,000 people, and another 1920 Haiyuan earthquake killed 273,400 people.
The deadliest earthquake of all time is said to have occurred in Shaanxi Province in 1556, directly or indirectly killing 830,000 people.
One of the deadliest events of modern times took place on Boxing Day in 2004, when a 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the west coast of Indonesia, also inside the Ring of Fire.
The ensuing gigantic movement of water caused waves up to 100 feet (30.48 meters) high to hit the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.
Indonesia, the hardest hit country, listed 167,540 citizens dead or missing, although the total death toll was around 230,000.
Most recently, Indonesia experienced two 6.2 magnitude earthquakes in February 2022 and January 2021, killing about 25 and 100 people, respectively.
Indonesian earthquakes are very regular. A magnitude 5.5 quake in Indonesia on Thursday killed four people and injured several more, just days after the quake hit Turkey and Syria.
While it is known that most global earthquakes will be concentrated at plate boundaries, there is no reliable way to accurately predict the time, location, and magnitude of an earthquake.
But that doesn’t stop some researchers from trying. Frank Hogerpets works for the Geometric Survey of the Solar System (SSGS), an organization that studies “the geometry between celestial bodies associated with seismic activity.”
In a February 3 tweet, he said that “sooner or later” an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale will hit south-central Turkey, Jordan, Syria or Lebanon.
The tweet went viral after the event, but the vague “prediction” was based on nothing but pseudoscience.
British geologist Roger Mawson told MailOnline that any link between celestial bodies and earthquakes has “been debunked many times”.
“Sooner or later there will be a big earthquake in California,” Mawson said.
Professor Rothery added: “To say that an earthquake will occur ‘sooner or later’ due to a known major fault is a prediction that we can all make and has no useful value.”
Source: Daily Mail