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Earthquakes – causes, predictions and what to do

February 2023
The two major earthquakes that hit Türkiye and Syria this month have killed over 50,000 people.

That compares with the about 20,000 people killed by earthquakes on average around the world each year.

what causes earthquakes
Earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates, which are huge slices of solid rock lying below continents and oceans.

One of those huge rock slices, for example, is the Eurasia Plate where Europe and most of Asia sit.

Some tectonic plates move more than others, which is why some places on Earth are more prone to earthquakes.

Türkiye and Syria sit on several fault lines, which are the places where different tectonic plates meet, aka converge.

Tectonic plates under Türkiye and Syria are continuously shifting, and some are sliding horizontally past each other. Such movement of plates is what caused the earthquakes this month.

predicting the next earthquake
Scientists cannot predict exactly when earthquakes will happen. Still, through studying tectonic plates, they’ve identified where earthquakes are likely to occur.

Based on population size and the tectonic plates they sit on, these are the 15 countries where earthquakes can cause most damage:

China, Japan, Iran, the Philippines, Indonesia, Türkiye, India, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Guatemala, the US and Peru.

how to act during an earthquake
These are some of the recommendations by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Don’t run.

Drop down onto your hands an knees before the earthquake knocks you down.

Cover your head and neck, and your entire body if possible, for example, by going under a sturdy table.

Hold on to your shelter/table or to your head and neck.

For a more complete description check out Stay Safe During an Earthquake.

Reference shelf:
Here's what we know about what caused the Turkey earthquake (NPR)

The 15 most earthquake-prone countries in the world, according to science (Business Insider)

Plate Tectonics (National Geographic)

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