Massive earthquake hits Turkey, Musk offers help with Starlink

Previously, SpaceX's Starlink has demonstrated its reliability in connecting homes cut off in natural disasters.
Deena Theresa
Starlink dish.
Starlink dish.


SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has offered to send Starlink terminals to Turkey after a severe earthquake struck the country in the early hours of Monday morning, resulting in "severe communication shortages."

More than 4,800 people were killed and buildings razed to the ground in Turkey and Syria when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) 14.2 miles(23km) east of Nurdagi, Gaziantep province, at a depth of 14.9 miles (24.1km). Located along the Turkey-Syria border, the earthquake tremors were felt in several countries, including Syria and Lebanon.

The World Health Organization has warned that the number of casualties could exceed 20,000.

As the quake struck in the early hours of the morning, residents were asleep and unprepared for the impact. AFAD, Turkey's disaster management agency, said on Tuesday that there were 3,381 deaths in that country. The death toll in Syria stood at 1,444.

Turkish government yet to approve Starlink satellites

Eleven minutes after the main quake, a strong aftershock of 6.7-magnitude hit about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of the main quake's epicenter. It was then followed by another intense aftershock with a magnitude of 5.6.

Videos and images shared on social media show scores of collapsed buildings and frightened residents on the streets. As rescue operations are underway, it is likely that the death toll will increase in the coming hours.

The massive earthquake has also resulted in severe communication shortages. Drawing focus on this, Mehmet Emin Adin, Assistant Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the Yale School of Medicine, had asked if Elon Musk could help with his Starlink satellites. Musk responded, stating that Starlink is not approved by the Turkish government yet. He added that SpaceX would send service as soon as the government approves.

However, Bloomberg reported that an anonymous senior Turkish official said though they were thankful for Musk's offer, Turkey had enough satellite capacity, and its base stations were working with battery power.

Starlink has been a huge help during natural disasters

SpaceX's Starlink has demonstrated its utility and reliability in connecting homes cut off in natural disasters. Last year, a couple of small towns in rural Washington received Starlink connections as the region was largely damaged by the west coast wildfires.

Starlink had also come to the rescue of Australian flood victims in 2022. Amid the flooding disaster in New South Wales, a tweet by surfer Mick Fanning prompted Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth to contact Starlink directly.

SpaceX took note, offered to fast-track the internet system, and a few Starlink terminals were delivered.

Though Turkey has been a major player in the development of the Starlink satellite constellation, with the country's Space Technologies Research Institute has worked with SpaceX, there is no word on when the Starlink service will be available in Turkey.

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