Virginia Tech’s Robert Weiss, who studies earthquakes, calls the devastating earthquake in Southern Turkey and Syria a “perfect storm.”

“It occurred overnight with many people at home,” Weiss said. “People were asleep, and it is always easy to look at faulty buildings. These two factors definitely contributed to the disaster.  

Turkey’s geographic location also is a factor, with the area being affected by several major earthquakes. “Turkey is located in a collision zone of two plates similar to the ring of fire around the Pacific Ocean.”  

BBC reports that “The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep. Seismologists said the first quake was one of the largest ever recorded in Turkey. Survivors said it took two minutes for the shaking to stop. The second quake - triggered by the first - had a magnitude of 7.5, and its epicentre was in the Elbistan district of Kahramanmaras province.”

Thousands of buildings and homes collapsed across the region, killing upward of 5,000 people. BBC further reports that the World Health Organization has warned that the death toll “could rise eight-fold.” Social platforms swarmed with videos of buildings collapsing into rubble.

“We need to learn from these events and carefully study how buildings failed during the given earthquake,” Weiss added.  

About Weiss

Robert Weiss examines the impact of coastal hazards in the geologic past, today and in the future. His work analyzes how climate change and sea-level rise could change the nature and impacts of coastal hazards in coming years. He develops computer models and uses data analytics to translate the geologic record of coastal hazards into insights that improve the understanding of coastal hazards in the past and today. Weiss is an associate professor of natural hazards in the College of Science’s Department of Geosciences.

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