11/12/99 Turkish Earthquake

Updated 11/21/99

The city of Duzce in northwestern Turkey was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 at 16:59 GMT 11/12/99. The Turkish government reports 705 dead and 5,000 injured with 80,000 homeless. The government, stung by criticism of a slow response to the August quake that killed over 15,000 people in the same general region was quick to send troops to help in the rescue efforts. 750 buildings were destroyed. Cold weather is especially hard on the thousands living in tents, with temperatures near freezing. The government has distributed 24,000 tents but could use more. Over 100,000 tents are still in use following the August quake. Bolu province where the quake was centered is just 45 miles east of the areas hit hardest by the August quake. It is a mountainous region with a smaller population than the coastal area affected by the August quake, which was much more destructive.

This quake and the August Izmit quake are on the North Anatolian Fault. A release of stress on one part of the fault leads to increased pressure on neighboring sections. The section that appears to have accumulated the most stress now is near Istanbul. It is impossible to tell, however, when that quake will hit. Most of Istanbul is built on solid ground and is not likely to see the kind of damage sustained in Ismit. On the other hand it is a large city a major quake there is sure to produce considerable destruction and loss of life. The Turkish population is now very aware of earthquake danger so the long process of strengthening buildings will probably now receive a high priority from the government.

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9/21/99 Taiwan Earthquake

Updated 9/26/99

A magnitude 7.6 quake struck central Taiwan about 90 miles south of Taipei at 1:47AM Tuesday September 21, 1999 local time (17:47 9/20/99 GMT). 2,031 people were killed, 8,500 injured, 6,000 buildings were destroyed and up to 100,000 people were left homeless. Many camped out for days for fear of the continuing aftershocks; over 7,100 have been recorded so far with magnitudes as high as 6.8. Some of the aftershocks caused further building collapse and casualties. Fears of illness, poor sanitation and lack of water are now the major concerns. Rescue teams from China, Japan, the United States and Turkey, among others helped with clean-up efforts and the search for survivors. 5 days after the quake hopes are dimming for finding any more alive in the rubble, although 2 more were found after being buried for 5 days.

Although many buildings collapsed, including a 12 story hotel/apartment building in Taipei, the damage was much less than in the somewhat smaller Turkish Quake in August. This can be attributed to stronger, better enforced building codes in Taiwan. However there will be investigations of code violations in the buildings that did collapse. Rapid growth has led to a number of illegal buildings that were thought to be not up to code. Some contractors have been questioned and others were told not to leave for the time being. Officials admit that the death toll would have been lower had codes been followed.

Power was out to almost 5 million of the 22 million inhabitants of the island. The stock market was closed for 5 days following the quake and is scheduled to open for limited trading on Monday September 27. Government officials have expressed concern that the market will plunge due to concerns of the economic impact of the quake on the island nation. An emergency decree limits market declines as part of a package designed to aid in the recovery. The military will work on rebuilding and have been given special powers to combat black marketeers and looting. The government will make low interest loans available to quake victims.

Taiwan is located in the "Ring of Fire" surrounding the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the most seismically active regions of the world. Taiwan in on the boundary between the Philippine Plate and the Eurasian Plate.

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9/7/99 Athens Earthquake

Updated 9/9/99

A magnitude 5.8 quake struck a northern suburb of Athens at 11:56 GMT 9/7/99. 70 people were killed, 2,000 injured and 50 are still missing as rescuers dig through the rubble of over 100 collapsed buildings. Inspectors are expected to condemn thousands of damaged buildings. Most of the city's population spent the night outdoors in fear of aftershocks. The rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rain the day after the quake. The government declared a one day state of emergency. Investigations are promised into shoddy building practices, as in the much more devastating Turkish quake in August. "We will look at this with great care," said Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou. "We have some of the strictest earthquake regulations around, and if they were kept, we should not have had this much damage." See also the following news stories:

8/17/99 Turkish Earthquake

Updated 9/9/99

The city of Izmet in northwestern Turkey was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 at 00:01 GMT 8/17/99. The body wave was reported at 7.8MB. The shallow focus of the quake (10km) intensified the ground motion and therefore increased the damage from the quake. 15,135 people have been confirmed dead, over 30,000 are estimated to be missing and over 23,000 injured. There have been hundreds of aftershocks, some of them over magnitude 5. International relief agencies from around the world provided aid aid, including dogs and equipment capable of locating people buried under rubble. In the days immediately after the quake aid was slow in arriving in the devastated area. Meanwhile people were clearing collapsed buildings by hand searching for survivors.

Turkey has strong earthquake building codes due to the frequency of earthquakes in the area. However, the government has not acted to enforce them and contractors have often not built to code. Investigations following the quake have found inadequate reinforcements in the concrete and inferior sea sand, resulting in weak buildings. Contractors have been charged with negligence causing death and some have fled to avoid arrest.

This area has a long history of earthquakes. There was a magnitude 8 quake in 1939 that killed 23,000 people. The quakes in this area are caused by pressure from the Arabian plate pushing north into the Eurasian plate from the southeast while the African plate pushes north from the southwest. The fault involved in this quake is a strike slip fault similar to the San Andreas Fault in California. Scientists are studying relationships between quakes in the two areas.

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3/28/99 North India Quake

Updated 4/1/99

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit the Chamoli and Garhwal districts of Uttar Pradesh in India, in the foothills of the Himalayas, at 19:05 GMT 3/28/99. The epicenter was 190 miles north of Dehli. The quake was felt over a large area, as far away as Dehli.

Over 100 people have been reported dead, 300 injured and 5,00 homeless. The worst damage was caused by extensive landslides that buried whole families in their homes. A 5.3 magnitude aftershock at 21:02 GMT Wednesday March 30 caused some further damage but no more casualties.

The quake hit a seismically active region characterized by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian Tectonic Plates. Over the past several million years, India has travelled across the Indian Ocean from the vicinity of Madagascar. The collision with Eurasia is the force that has raised the Himalayas. (See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.)

Here is the USGS Bulletin with details of magnitude and location.

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2/11/99 Afghanistan Earthquake

Updated 2/18/99

An earthquake with a Magnitude of 5.9 Ms centered 36 miles to the west of Kabul caused widespread damage February 11, 1999 at 6:38 pm local time (1408 GMT). Official estimates put the death toll at over 50 with 30,000 homeless. Most of the damage came from the collapse of unreinforced earthen buildings. Relief agancies are encouraging building more earthquake resistant structures to reduce damage from future quakes.

Afghanistan is in an extremely active seismic region that runs in an east/west direction from the Mediterranian Sea through Central Asia. This area is being compressed as the Indian Plate collides with the Eurasian Plate. This collision is continuing to raise the Hindu Kush and Himalyan Mountain Ranges. To the West similar processes cause earthquakes in Iran as a result of the movement of the Arabian Plate into the Eurasian Plate. Still further West, the Alps are the result of the collision of the African and Eurasian Plates. (See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.)

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1/25/99 Columbia Earthquake

Updated 2/14/99

The Columbian cities of Armenia and Calcara were struck by a major earthquake, with a Magnitude of 5.8, at 18:19 GMT (1:19 PM local time) Monday January 25, 1999. The initial shock was followed 4 hours later, at 22:40 (5:40 PM local time) GMT by a Magnitude 5.4 aftershock. Although initially 1000-2000 people were feared killed, the confirmed death toll now stands at 938, with 4117 injuries and 400,000 homeless, according to government figures. Armenia is a city of 300,000 in the coffee growing region of Columbia, 140 miles from Bogota. Much of the city lay in ruins after the quake. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed. Many of the collapsed buildings were unreinforced concrete. Officials fear more casualties from hunger and disease. Long term damage to the coffee industry is feared. The coffee plants themselves were not damaged, for the most part, but many processing plants and roads necessary to bring the crop to market were destroyed. Repairs may be slow in coming. Coffee prices have risen on the world markets after the quake and wages in the coffee producing regions have dropped.

Distribution of emergency food and supplies has been a major problem. Supplies at first sat at the airport without the means of distribution to areas that needed it. Government officials were at first overwhelmed and ensnared in red tape as they attempt to respond. The mayor of Calcara had to go to the airport personally in order to obtain aid for his city.

Looting was widespread as desparate people tried to get food. 4,000 troops were deployed to try to control the looting, with limited success as some soldiers expressed sympathy for the looters. At least one supermarket was burned and other stores have given away food since it would have been taken anyway.

The quake's focus was unusually shallow for this region, only 10-20 miles underground. This shallow focus explains the severity of the damage, since in shallow quakes the earthquake waves reach the surface quickly with less chance to dissipate than deeper ones. This area is located near the edges of three tectonic plates, the Nazca Plate, the South American Plate and the Carribean Plate. Normally, we would expect an earthquake here to be caused by subduction of the Nazca Plate under the South American Plate. However, if this were the case, we would expect a deeper focus. See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes

Here are some news stories about the quake:
BBC pictures of the Quake

BBC report on Columbia Earthquake

AP report on Columbia Earthquake from San Francisco Examiner