A damaged vehicle is seen on top of the rubble after an earthquake in Iskenderun, Turkey.
A series of earthquakes have devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, killing more than 3,000 people and destroying thousands of buildings.
The tremors, which were centered in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, were felt as far away as Cairo in Egypt and Beirut in Lebanon.
They met a region shaped on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria and the refugee crisis created by the conflict.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday is likely to be one of the deadliest this decade, seismologists said.
The epicenter was about 16 miles (26 km) east of the Turkish city of Nurdagi on the East Anatolian Fault. The quake moved towards the northeast, wreaking havoc in central Turkey and Syria.
Eleven minutes after the initial tremor, a 6.7-magnitude aftershock hit the region. A magnitude 7.5 tremor followed an hour later, followed by another 6.0 spasm in the evening.
On average, there are less than 20 quakes above 7.0 magnitude in any one year, making Monday’s event particularly intense.
Why was it so hard?
Three tectonic plates intersect
The region is one of the most seismically active in the world, meaning it is prone to earthquakes.
Earthquakes occur when huge blocks of the earth’s crust – or tectonic plates – suddenly move over each other.
The region of Turkey and Syria is at the intersection of three of these plates: the Anatolian, Arabian and African plates.
The Arabian plate is pushing north into Europe, causing the Anatolian plate to push back at a rate of about 2cm per year.
It is this stress, which has been building up for years, that has now been unleashed with deadly consequences.
A strike-slip fault
The East Anatolian Fault is a strike-slip fault. Among them, solid rock plates are pushing up against each other across a vertical fault, building up stress until one finally slides into a horizontal motion, releasing an enormous amount of pressure that can trigger an earthquake.
The San Andreas Fault in California is probably the world’s most famous strike-slip fault, and scientists have warned that a catastrophic earthquake is long overdue.
“The shaking at the surface of the earth will be more intense than for an earthquake of the same magnitude at the source,” David Rothery, a planetary geoscientist at the Open University told Reuters.
Dose photo taken with permission from Twitter account @mehmetyetim63 of a collapsed building in Sanliurfa, Turkey.
The shallow vibrations
The initial rupture for the earthquake struck between Turkey and Syria at a relatively shallow depth of 11 miles (18km).
The second major quake, which followed nine hours later, was about 62 miles (100km) northeast of the original quake, at a depth of 6 miles (10km).
Experts say that the shaking on the ground’s surface will be more intense than a deeper earthquake of the same magnitude at the source.
Quality of buildings and location
There will also be speculation surrounding the types of buildings destroyed during the disaster, particularly in smaller towns and villages with fewer modern buildings.
Modern buildings that follow up-to-date building codes are more likely to survive earthquakes. But older or cheaper structures are more vulnerable, and buildings may have already been damaged in areas devastated by civil war.