Earthquake in Kahramanmaraş decimated 10 cities and disrupted millions of lives

On the 6th of February 2023, two major earthquakes of magnitudes 7.7 and 7.6 hit Türkiye in Kahramanmaraş, a city in Southeast Anatolia. The earthquakes took place at 04.17 Monday morning and caught people offhand. A week after the devastating earthquake, the death toll has surpassed 31 thousand.

Türkiye woke up to two catastrophic earthquakes last Monday, the 6th of February. Pazarcık and Elbistan districts of Kahramanmaraş were the epicenters of the M 7.7 and 7.6 quakes, according to Kandilli Observatory. The second tremor came after some nine hours of the first one.

Kahramanmaraş, Hatay, and Malatya got hit the worst by the quakes. According to Disaster and  Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), a minimum of 31,643 people have been killed, and 80,278 were hurt. The seismic wave destroyed or severely damaged 24,921 buildings across ten cities.

The catastrophic event is ranked as a degree XI, representing an “extreme” event on the Mercalli scale. Mercalli scale consists of degrees I to XII and defines the severity of the earthquakes, in which XII is “extreme destruction.”

Still, there are people (dead or alive) under the rubble after a week. Experts suggest that this might cause the number of lost lives to keep increasing.

The destruction caused by the earthquakes led them to be known as “the disaster of the century.” A similar tremor on the same fault took place in 1939 in Erzincan. The magnitude 7.9 terror is one of the worst disasters in the history of the Republic, causing 32.968 deaths and more than 100 thousand injuries while destroying 116,720 buildings. The 1939 quake was identified as a degree XII calamity on the Mercalli scale.

Since the 2023 disaster is colossal, it is practically impossible for one state to deal with it single-handedly. Hence, multiple countries and international organizations reached out as a helping hand. Thanks to their coordinated efforts with the Turkish authorities, it was possible to save more people and deliver relief faster.


In disaster times, politics are set aside so that more help can be delivered with efficiency. The only goal is to help save more people.

A prime example of this situation is the Greek aid to Türkiye. Athens and Ankara have been in a turbulent relationship for almost two centuries consecutively, yet when calamity strikes; the two countries can get together to help each other. The two have been helping each other with disasters since the 1999 Gölcük and 1999 Athens quakes. Greece sent tonnes of aid materials besides more than 30 aid workers, including medical and engineers. The people of Greece have given what they can in donations, testifying for Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ words, “Greek and Turkish people are friends. We may have our differences politically, but at the end of the day, we have nothing to separate from the Turkish people.” Images of a Greek aid team rescuing a little girl from rubbles and hugging each other have become poster images of the efforts.

Similar efforts from another country in turmoil with Türkiye, Armenia, have offered help and sent several search and rescue specialists.

Alongside Greece and Armenia, more than a hundred countries showed solidarity with Türkiye and Syria, including multiple international organizations.

Countries all around the world, the USA, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, and many more, have sent their search and rescue missions and pieces of vital equipment. International organizations such as the United Nations, Islamic Relief, and IFRC sent rescue workers and aid. The European Union also sent rescue teams with dogs and aid like food and clothing.


The tremors devastated a massive area of ten cities in Türkiye. Cem Dalyan, an academic who spoke to DW, says: “Antakya is destroyed” about the situation in Hatay’s central district. Hatay is one of the worst impacted cities by these earthquakes.

More than 10 million people are estimated to have been directly affected by the tremors in the ten cities.

Legislation and executive branches of the state have declared a state of emergency for Kahramanmaraş, Adana, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Şanlıurfa - the ten cities ravaged by the tremors.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared national grief on the day the quakes happened, effective for one week. Wages of state officials were paid four days earlier than usual nationwide as well.

Victims were temporarily relocated to state university dormitories belonging to Credit and Dormitory General Administration (KYGM). Due to this, universities are set to operate in distant teaching mode until the end of this spring semester. University and high school entrance exams are set to be conducted, excluding the spring semester topics of the exams.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also pledged that construction to begin to build new buildings within one year. The rent expenses of the earthquake victims are also going to be partially compensated for one year. President Erdoğan said: “We will not leave our people desperate and alone” on the topic.  

Turkish Airlines is conducting free-of-charge flights from the affected cities to evacuate citizens. Other state-owned or partially state-owned companies also followed up in the helping process.

More than a hundred contractors were arrested on several charges, some of them being caught while trying to flee the country.

Instances of looting took place in some cities and villages, with accused looters being lynched by the public. Law enforcement officers took over the matter to provide security shortly.

It is still unclear whether the general elections will be held on their due time, the 14th of May. Leader of the IYI party Meral Akşener said that "I do not think the elections can be held on the 14th of May, but they must be held on their time, the 18th of June at the very latest."

Mansur Ali Bilgiç - 13/02/2023