After Flooding in Thailand a Massive Earthquake Hits Eastern Turkey in the Historic Region of Mount Ararat: Guest Post 17

Massive Earthquake Hits Eastern Turkey in the Historic Region of Mount Ararat and Devastates The City of Van on 23 October 2011.

Alper Durmus (B.S. 2004)
Contributed by Alper Durmus (B.S. Civil Engineering, 2004), currently M.S. graduate student, The University of Mississippi, United States.


“A 7.2 magnitude seismic tremor hits the eastern Anatolian city of Van, creating massive damage and possibly taking many lives, according to an unofficial initial estimate”, reported Hurriyet, a leading news agency of Turkey. Hundreds of citizens were killed and thousands wounded.
Residents of Van, Turkey, searched a collapsed building for survivors of an earthquake on Sunday (NY Times). According to Daily Mail, “The worst hit area was Ercis, a town of 75,000 close to the Iranian border in one of Turkey’s most earthquake-prone zones, where more than 100 buildings have collapsed.” Associated Press reported as follows: “Worst-hit was the city of Ercis, where about 80 multistory buildings collapsed. Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said some 40 buildings in Ercis still had people trapped inside, giving rise to fears that the death toll could increase substantially. The minister did not give any estimates.” Sounds tragic, isn’t it.
Credit: http://www.nytimes.com/

Immediately after the October 2011 Van earthquake the Turkish Red Crescent and other volunteer organizations once again took immediate action like before and they have been making their best efforts in the area. But, could all these have been prevented? How many more earthquakes need to occur before we can realize that we are not ready yet? Every time, it is the same tragedy that we are all familiar with: not only a big economic loss, but also the humanitarian loss which is irreversible.

The aftermath of the Van earthquake made me think of the saying “History repeats itself”.

Credit: http://bunkertownpastor.blogspot.com/

At this point, it is worth taking a look at the history of notable earthquakes in Turkey. One can easily conclude from the histogram, created using the USGS data, that Turkey is located in a seismically active geographical area.
Histogram of historical earthquake record, Turkey (Credit for data: USGS)

Natural non-weather and extreme weather related events are inevitable. What we call a “disaster” is the natural impact of Mother Nature on populated and urbanized areas which were not designed for protection from extreme natural disastrous events. But, does that mean we are bound to suffer each time?

The answer is “No”. We must initiate adjusting our vulnerability to disasters, especially in cities and populated areas. We do not lack information, or data, or the know-how. Yet, humanity will keep on suffering after every natural disaster, as long as proper community preparedness, emergency response, and mitigation actions are not taken on nationwide scale.

I sincerely hope that the very obvious lessons for humankind be learnt sooner than later and so that we would not find ourselves in such misery and helplessness in the future.

Bio of Alper Durmus: I am currently a graduate student pursuing M.S. degree in infrastructure engineering at the University of Mississippi. After earning a B.S. degree in civil engineering in 2004 from Istanbul Technical University (ITU) in Turkey, I took up employment with a leading EPC contractor and was assigned to De-Kastri Oil Export Terminal in Russia as a planning & cost engineer. After observing the design related issues on construction sites, I then worked as a structural engineer in a consultancy company in Turkey. In late 2005, I worked in Ireland as a planning engineer and project draftsman in a local precast concrete company. In 2009, I relocated to the Middle East where I worked for a general contractor as a project controls engineer in Oman. In 2011, I was granted financial assistantship scholarship from the University of Mississippi. I am working as CAIT graduate research assistant under the supervision of Professor Waheed Uddin, whom I had the opportunity to meet in November 2002 during his lecture to ITU transportation faculty and students in Istanbul, Turkey.

Dr. Uddin’s note: Alper is pursuing his M.S. research under my guidance. He is learning computational tools and geospatial technologies to make visualization models of selected historical landmarks in Turkey and evaluate their seismic vulnerability. This guest post shows his concern about the adverse impacts of natural disasters on the society and his passion to find ways for disaster risk reduction in a seismic region.

You can read the following posts for research work examples of my past graduate and undergraduate senior students:

Satellite Imagery Based Mapping of Road Network, Traffic Demand, and GHG Emissions
Guest Posts on Disasters, Sustainability, and Climate Change Impacts
Applications of Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Technologies

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