On Monday, February 20, 2023, at 08:04 pm local time, six people died and many buildings were destroyed in the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that occurred in the Defne district of Hatay.
Turkey experienced one of the greatest tragedies in its history due to the earthquakes on February 6, 2023. However, the third major earthquake that occurred on Monday, February 20, caused new destruction and loss of life in the country.
The Kandilli Observatory announced the magnitude of the earthquake as 6.4 in about eight minutes. Authorities close to the epicenter reported that as soon as the earthquake occurred, some damaged structures in the city collapsed. Many reporters working in the region were caught in the earthquake while they were broadcasting live.
On Tuesday, February 21, the chairman of AFAD (Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency), Yunus Sezer, said that six people died and 294 people were injured due to the last earthquake in Hatay. He noted that the search and rescue efforts in the region continued unabated.
The tsunami warning issued for some Eastern Mediterranean cities after the earthquake was withdrawn soon after. Büyükçat village, the epicenter of the earthquake, is located approximately 17 kilometers from the seaside.
A few days before the earthquake, Celal Şengör and Naci Görür, Turkey’s leading geologists, mentioned that new earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.0 and above could occur in the region. Scientists point out that earthquakes of similar magnitude may occur in Adana and Cyprus.
According to the data of the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, the number of people who lost their lives due to the earthquakes that occurred as of February 6, 2023 in Turkey reached 42,310.
Unfortunately, the total number of casualties is expected to increase further as the debris removal work continues. On the other hand, authorities prefer not to make speculative statements about how much the total death toll will be.
The 700-Year-Old Church was Demolished
The destruction of historical buildings in the region due to the earthquake is another dimension of the tragedy. The Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary, located in the village of Tokaçlı, collapsed to a large extent in the earthquake on February 20. Video from İHA (İhlas News Agency):
According to the statement made by the priest of the church to İHA, the church, which was closed to worship on February 6 due to the danger of collapse, cannot be interfered with, except by the authorities, as it is a registered cultural property.
Only parts of the walls and the bell tower remain of the church, which is estimated to be about seven centuries old.
Next to the entrance door of the church was a marble inscription containing the Ten Commandments mentioned in the Old Testament.
Antakya Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church, Antakya Jewish Synagogue, Antakya Protestant Church, Habib-i Neccar Mosque, Hatay Parliament Building and İskenderun Latin Catholic Church are among other historical buildings that were largely destroyed.
Yahya Coşkun from the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums said that a part of the Hatay Archeology Museum was damaged, and that no physical destruction occurred in the other museums except minor damage.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said on February 7, 2023 that assistance would be provided to both Turkey and Syria for cultural heritage assets damaged by the earthquake.1
Aftershocks Will Continue
Due to the earthquakes that occurred on both February 6 and February 20, aftershocks continue to affect.
Authorities say that one should not enter houses even to buy belongings.
- “Earthquake in Syria and Türkiye: UNESCO offers support“, World Heritage Convention, February 7, 2023^
- Bölgesel Deprem-Tsunami İzleme ve Değerlendirme Merkezi, KRDAE, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi^