'Disaster of the century': NASA maps extent of Turkey-Syria earthquake devastation
Two earthquakes with magnitudes 7.8 and 7.5 devastated southern Turkey and western Syria on February 6, 2023, wreaking havoc in both neighboring nations.
The earthquakes emanated from a fault located 18 km below the surface, leading to strong and violent shaking that affected areas hundreds of kilometers from the epicenter, according to NASA's Earth Observatory satellite's new data shared on Friday.
"These were very large and powerful earthquakes that ruptured all the way up to the surface over a long series of fault segments," said Eric Fielding, a geophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"This generated extremely strong shaking over a very large area that hit many cities and towns full of people. The rupture length and magnitude of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake was similar to the 1906 earthquake that destroyed San Francisco."
Scientists from space agencies all throughout the world, including NASA, immediately started collecting and analyzing satellite data pertinent to the incident, stated the U.S Space Agency.
NASA examines satellite data
The information was utilized to create a preliminary damage proxy map that highlighted the regions in the cities of Türkolu, Kahramanmaraş, and Nurdai that received significant damage to infrastructure, residences, and buildings.
The Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 (ALOS-2) data were used to construct the map, which was then examined by the Earth Observatory of Singapore's Remote Sensing Lab in association with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech.
The ALOS-2 satellite is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar that uses microwave pulses to survey the surface of the planet and detect changes by listening for reflections.
Beaises ALOS-2 — PALSAR-2, Landsat 9 — OLI-2 instrument was used to create the map.
"The map covers only the central part of the affected area, but it includes the epicenters of both the magnitude 7.8 main earthquake and the magnitude 7.5 aftershock," said Eric Fielding, a geophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
He, however, noted that "the damage proxy map may be lower in areas of vegetation, such as in the mountains, due to seasonal variations."
NASA to aid from space
The damage proxy map and satellite data are being shared with institutions like the U.S. State Department, Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief, and the World Bank by members of NASA's Earth Science Applied Sciences' disasters program area in cooperation with international partners.
The team is taking part in continuous coordination calls organized by the U.S. Agency for International Development to determine the requirements of regional stakeholders and contribute scientific knowledge to aid in recovery efforts.
"We're monitoring this event closely," said Shanna McClain, who is managing the collaborative program.
"In addition to mapping damage from satellites, we're using satellites to track increased landslide risks, power outages, and weather that could pose challenges to response efforts."
The NASA team is updating its mapping platform in near real-time with earthquake-related images and data products as new information becomes available to assess the damage and support recovery efforts in the region.
'Disaster of the century'
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Thursday described the earthquake as the "disaster of the century" while he was visiting the province of Osmaniye, one among the ten regions that faced the wrath on February 6.
Estimates suggest over 24,000 people have lost their lives in the Turkey-Syria earthquake as aid, donations, and rescue efforts continue. And there is no account for the property damage so far.
The calamity caused by the earthquake is the most severe to affect Turkey since 1939 and has killed more people than the 17,000 fatalities from an earthquake in 1999.
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