Turkey, Syria Earthquake Highlights Major Natural Disasters of 2023

Leah Canter, Staff Editor

Over 46,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria from a powerful earthquake that hit their region on February 6, 2023.  According to The New York Times, this natural disaster has killed over 20,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless across Syria and Turkey.

When the death toll reached 17,647 in Turkey, officials announced that it was, in fact, the country’s deadliest earthquake.  The magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Turkey and Syria and was centered in southern Turkey, where countries like Lebanon and Israel could feel the quake.

Many families who have fled civil wars are now displaced again and the U.S. is refusing to lift sanctions on Syria to help these victims. But, unlike the United States, the United Nations appealed for more than $1 billion for the Turkish relief operation and $400 million for Syria, as aid organizations said survivors would need help for months.

In addition to the 7.8M earthquake, the country of Turkey was hit yet again with a magnitude 6.3 earthquake only two weeks after the country’s worst earthquake in history.

Christian Atsu, a Ghanaian soccer star, was one of many who was found dead under the rubble of his own home.  “It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to announce to all well-wishers that sadly Christian Atsi’s body was recovered this morning,” Nana Sechere, Atsu’s agent. posted Saturday on Twitter. “My deepest condolences go to his family and loved ones.”


It’s been 51 days since 2023 started, what else has happened?


Photo Credits: CNN

On January 27, 2023, the largest city in New Zealand had estimated 9.8 inches of rain, making it the city’s wettest day they’ve ever had, according to Disaster Philanthropy.  This impactful storm, Cyclone Gabrielle, is expected to hit northern New Zealand and those who live on the upper North Island are anticipated to get heavy rain and winds.  

With the intensity of Cyclone Gabrielle, the ground was waterlogged and rivers were full, which provided little to no capacity for absorbing new rainfall.  Due to the abundance of water, the city of Aukland is risking the chances of landslides and rivers overtopping, causing hundreds of people to evacuate.


Cyclones aren’t the only thing that people are worried about  


The 2023 Tornado season is off to a windy start, with more than 128 tornadoes confirmed only within the United States.  As of February 9, 2023, there have been a minimum of six EFU tornadoes and three EF-3 tornadoes.  States like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama have already been affected by tornadoes, the most recent being Louisiana and Mississippi.

Photo Credits: The San Diego Union-Tribune


Why are natural disasters becoming a frequent problem?


In February of 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report stating that climate change was “very likely” to be caused by humans.  Seven years later, the next IPCC concluded that there was a 95% probability that human activities have warmed our planet over the last 50 years; the last six-year period being the warmest on record.

Eventually, the IPCC reported in February of 2022, that “human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and is affecting the lives and livelihoods of billions of people despite the efforts to reduce the risks.”


The four main influences humans have on our environment are:

  1. The use of planes, trains and automobiles
  2. Keeping the lights on
  3. Chain of fuels (AKA internet-related greenhouse gases)
  4. Chopping down trees


Yet, one of the more prominent reasons why natural disasters are more frequent is that populations are growing rapidly.  Studies in 2015-2017 by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society showed that 62 of the 77 events reported show a significant human influence; imagine the numbers now.

In addition to the rapid population growth, the increasing global temperatures are causing more droughts and increased intensity of storms.  According to USGS, the more water vapor evaporates into the atmosphere, the more fuel for more powerful storms to develop.  Like water, more heat in the atmosphere and warmer ocean surface temperatures can lead to increased wind speeds in tropical storms.

Photo Credits: The Zebra

What can you do to help make a difference?

  1. Save Energy at Home
  2. Walk, Bike or take public transportation
  3. Eat More Vegetables
  4. Consider Your Travel
  5. Throw Away Less Food
  6. Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle
  7. Change Your Home’s Source of Energy
  8. Switch to an Electric Vehicle


Key Statistics + Insights


→ Natural disasters affect 218 million people and claim 68,000 lives per year. (Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters)

→ In 2020, 22 of the natural disasters that occurred in the United States cost at least $1 billion in damages and repairs. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) 

→ Drought affected more than one billion people between 1994 and 2013 (Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters)

→ In the last 25 years, almost 7,000 natural disasters have killed over 1.35 million people. (Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters)

→ Hurricanes can produce winds higher than 75 miles per hour. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

→ In 2013, over the course of three days, 343 tornadoes spawned in the Southwest United States across 13 states. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

→ Natural disaster losses totaled $74.4 billion in 2020. (Insurance Information Institute)

→  20.5% of people have no emergency funds saved to rebuild after a natural disaster. (The Zebra)