A massive earthquake of 7.8 struck southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria on February 6th, 2023, causing widespread damage and leaving tens of thousands of people dead. The death toll rose to more than 55,700 people. Natural disasters have long-term effects, including loss of life, economic damage, displacement of people, and social consequences. The article emphasizes the importance of investing in disaster preparedness and response, improving infrastructure, and addressing the root causes of climate change.
- A massive earthquake of 7.8 magnitudes struck southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria on February 6th, 2023, causing widespread damage and leaving tens of thousands of people dead.
- The earthquake’s impact resulted in more than 10,000 aftershocks in the following weeks, affecting an estimated 14 million people, or 16 percent of Turkey’s population, causing billions of dollars in damages and making it the deadliest natural disaster in Turkey’s modern history.
- Investing in disaster preparedness and response, improving infrastructure, and addressing the root causes of climate change is crucial to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, which have significant long-term consequences on societies.
On February 6th, 2023, a massive earthquake of 7.8 struck southern and central Turkey, as well as northern and western Syria, causing widespread damage and leaving tens of thousands of people dead (Kanwal, 2023). The earthquake’s epicenter was 37 km west-northwest of Gaziantep, with a maximum Mercalli intensity of XII (Extreme) in parts of Antakya in Hatay Province. A second earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 struck the same region later in the day, causing further damage and devastation. The seismic sequence resulted from shallow strike-slip faulting, and there were more than 10,000 aftershocks in the three following weeks (Mavrouli et al., 2023; Kalia, 2023).
The earthquake was one of the strongest ever recorded in the Levant, felt as far as Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Black Sea coast of Turkey. It caused widespread damage in about 350,000 km2 (140,000 sq. mi), affecting an estimated 14 million people, or 16 percent of Turkey’s population. As of March 13th, 2023, the death toll had risen to more than 55,700, making it the deadliest earthquake in Turkey’s modern history and the deadliest natural disaster in its modern history (El Kadri et al., 2023; Kalia, 2023).
The earthquake caused billions of dollars in damages, with estimates exceeding US$100 billion in Turkey and US$5.1 billion in Syria, making them the fourth-costliest earthquakes on record. The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency’s rescue and relief effort, which included a 60,000-strong search-and-rescue force, was hampered by damaged roads, winter storms, and disruptions to communications. The call for international help saw more than 141,000 people from 94 countries join the rescue effort (Johansen, 2023; Kalia, 2023).
Natural disasters are a sobering reminder of the immense power that Mother Nature holds. The recent earthquake in Turkey again highlights how devastating these events can be for societies worldwide. In this article, we will explore the impact such catastrophic events have on communities and societies, the steps that can be taken to mitigate their effects, and the lessons learned from this tragedy.
What are Natural Calamities?
Natural calamities are a grim reminder of nature’s immense power and ability to wreak havoc on human societies. The impact of such catastrophic events can be devastating in terms of human life and economic damage. In recent years, natural calamities have become more frequent and more destructive due to climate change. Climate change has caused more extreme weather conditions, such as heatwaves, floods, and hurricanes, and has also intensified seismic activities leading to earthquakes and tsunamis (Reilly, 2022).
When natural disasters strike, they can lead to loss of life, destruction of property and infrastructure, displacement of people, and economic hardship (El Saghir et al., 2018). The February 06th earthquake in Turkey is a tragic example of how devastating natural disasters can be (Kanwal, 2023). The earthquake killed thousands and injured tens of thousands more. It also caused widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure across the country. The quake led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are still living in temporary shelters. The economic cost of the disaster is estimated to be billions of dollars (McManus et al., 2018).
The impact of natural disasters on societies is far-reaching and long-lasting. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the focus is on providing emergency relief such as food, water, and shelter to those affected (Moreno & Shaw, 2019). Governments and relief organizations play a critical role in providing this support. However, long-term support is essential to help people rebuild their homes, communities, and livelihoods (Daly et al., 2020).
In addition to the physical and economic damage caused by natural disasters, they also have significant psychological effects. Survivors of natural disasters often experience trauma, anxiety, and depression. These mental health effects can last long after the disaster has ended, and it is important to provide mental health support to those affected (Benevolenza & DeRigne, 2019).
As climate change continues to worsen, natural disasters are likely to become more frequent and severe (Van Oldenborgh et al., 2021). It is, therefore, crucial to take steps to mitigate the impact of natural disasters. This includes investing in disaster preparedness and response, improving infrastructure to withstand natural disasters, and taking steps to address the root causes of climate change.
How Do Natural Calamities Affect Societies?
Natural calamities significantly impact societies, ranging from loss of life to long-term economic and social consequences. The recent earthquake in Turkey in 2023 is a prime example of natural disasters’ destructive power and lasting impact on communities (Titus et al., 2023).
One of the most immediate and devastating effects of natural calamities is the loss of life. The earthquake in Turkey claimed the lives of over 55,700 people, making it the deadliest earthquake in modern Turkish history. Beyond the tragic loss of life, natural disasters also cause physical damage to infrastructure, buildings, and homes. In the case of the Turkey earthquake, an estimated 14 million people were affected, and the damage covered an area of about 350,000 km2, about the size of Germany (Kalia, 2023).
In addition to physical destruction, natural calamities often have significant economic consequences. The Turkey earthquake caused damages estimated at over $100 billion in Turkey and $5.1 billion in Syria, making it one of the costliest earthquakes on record. These damages affect individuals and businesses and can have broader economic impacts on industries, supply chains, and government budgets (Seifman et al., 2023).
Natural disasters also lead to the displacement and migration of people, disrupting social structures and causing lasting impacts on communities. In Turkey, the earthquake displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are still living in temporary shelters. This can cause long-term psychological and emotional impacts on those affected, leading to mental health challenges and trauma (Mavrouli et al., 2023).
Moreover, natural calamities can exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities. Vulnerable communities, such as low-income households and marginalized groups, are often disproportionately affected by natural disasters due to their limited access to resources and infrastructure (Cutter, 2017). In the case of the Turkey earthquake, it is estimated that about 1.5 million people were left homeless. These people face significant challenges in accessing basic needs like food, water, and healthcare, and the impact of the disaster is likely to be felt most acutely by these vulnerable populations (Mavrouli et al., 2023).
The Economic Impact of Natural Calamities
Natural calamities significantly impact a country’s economy (Okafor et al., 2023). In the case of the Turkey earthquake in 2023, it caused an estimated $34.2 billion in direct physical damages, which is equivalent to 4% of the country’s 2021 GDP. The damage to infrastructure, such as residential and non-residential buildings, and infrastructure, such as roads, power, and water supply, can lead to a decline in productivity, which may cause an increase in prices and a decrease in consumer and investor confidence (Kalia, 2023).
Furthermore, natural disasters can also disrupt the supply chain, leading to the loss of revenue for businesses and industries. It may also result in the displacement of people, affecting their livelihoods and causing economic disruptions (Kassegn & Endris, 2021). For instance, the earthquake in Turkey rendered around 1.25 million people temporarily homeless due to moderate to severe damage or complete building collapse (Seifman et al., 2023).
The economic impact of natural calamities is not limited to direct physical damages, and the cost of recovery and reconstruction can be significantly higher (Khan et al., 2023). The recovery and reconstruction costs for the Turkey earthquake are expected to be much larger, potentially twice as large as the direct damages, and the GDP losses associated with economic disruptions will also add to the cost of the earthquake (Seifman et al., 2023).
The economic impact of natural disasters can also have long-lasting effects. In the case of Turkey, the earthquake caused damage to regions with some of the highest poverty rates in the country and hosted more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees, which is almost 50% of the total Syrian refugee population in Turkey. The long-term impact on their livelihoods and the economy can be substantial (Seifman et al., 2023).
To support the recovery efforts, the World Bank announced an initial package of $1.78 billion in assistance, comprising $780 million in immediate assistance and a new emergency recovery project to support people affected by the earthquake (Kalia, 2023). It highlights the importance of enhancing resilience in public and private infrastructure to minimize the impact of natural disasters.
Natural calamities can cause significant economic impact, both in the short and long term, and can lead to loss of life, destruction of infrastructure, and economic disruptions. It is essential to have proper disaster risk management and enhance resilience in public and private infrastructure to minimize the impact of natural disasters (Alexander, 2018).
The Social Impact of Natural Calamities
Natural disasters can have a significant and widespread social impact on societies in a variety of different ways. Loss of life and damage to property is the most obvious and immediate effects, both of which can result in the dislocation of people as well as physical and emotional trauma. Natural disasters can also have indirect effects, such as causing damage to infrastructure and leading to the loss of livelihoods, which can lead to an increase in poverty and social inequality, as well as problems with mental health. Over the course of a longer period of time, natural disasters can also result in political instability and conflict (Lee & Fraser, 2019).
Deloitte Access Economics (2016) looked into the economic costs of social impacts for the first time by drawing on communities’ experiences and researching the increased costs that communities face in terms of health-related issues, employment, and community costs after a natural disaster. In ‘The Economic Cost of the Social Impact of Natural Disasters,’ it is stated that extreme weather events like bushfires, severe storms, cyclones, floods, and earthquakes have resulted in an increase in mental health issues, alcohol misuse, domestic violence, chronic disease, and short-term unemployment. These issues have been caused by extreme weather events (Ryan et al., 2020).
Those who are impacted by an emergency situation go through a period of time that can be extremely taxing, disruptive, and traumatic. It is possible for entire communities to be uprooted, for friends and family to be separated, for homes and livelihoods to be lost, and, of course, for lives to be taken. People may experience a variety of reactions in the aftermath of such a disaster, including physical, psychological, emotional, or behavioral responses. While perfectly natural, these responses can significantly impact a person’s capacity to cope with the situation. In the days immediately following an event and in the longer term, people can experience a range of emotions, including shock, disbelief, fear, apprehension, anger, shame, and guilt. Personal, family, and community relationships of all kinds will feel the strain of traumatic experiences and grief (D’Apolito et al., 2020).
Disasters can negatively affect a person’s mental health, leading to more alcohol and drug abuse, as well as more self-harm, violence, and abuse. Whether or not they have suffered direct losses, people who have been through previous traumatic experiences, such as military service, previous bushfires or house fires, or the death of a family member, may be triggered into experiencing post-traumatic stress by the disaster (McHugo et al., 2005). Complications in one’s life unrelated to the disaster, such as the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job, can amplify the feelings of loss and trauma caused by the disaster. Many people experience vicarious trauma due to their involvement with households and communities that were affected in some way, whether through work, services, sports, schools, or social connections (Wasserman et al., 2020).
The effect of exposure to emergency events on an individual’s mental health and emotional and social well-being can be mild, moderate, or severe. It can have a short-term or long-lasting impact (Ambrosetti et al., 2021). Evidence suggests that anywhere between 5 and 40 percent of the people involved in an emergency event are at risk of sustaining a severe and protracted psychological injury. Even though recovery is going well, the vast majority of individuals still have a population of people who are having difficulty with it. It will take many of these people quite a few more years before they can return to their previous levels of health, welfare, and happiness and before they can fully re-engage with their lives, and many of them will never recover at all (Bonanno et al., 2010).
In addition, the capacity of a community to recover after a disaster is a reflection of the functioning that lies beneath the surface of that community. When confronted with adversity, communities that are robust in their day-to-day operations, characterized by robust social connections and an abundance of resources, will typically fare the best. The immediate, medium-term, and long-term effects of disasters, such as loss, injury, and social and economic hardship, are more likely to be experienced by people and communities that were already vulnerable or disadvantaged prior to the occurrence of the disaster (Aldrich, 2012).
The research concluded that strengthening local capacity and capability, with a greater focus on community engagement and a better understanding of the diversity, needs, strengths, and vulnerabilities within communities, can mitigate the negative effects over the long term (Sugawara, 2022). The Economic Cost of the Social Impact of Natural Disasters states that a greater effort should be invested in the preparedness of individuals, particularly long-term psycho-social recovery, which includes community development programs and support for areas such as health and well-being, employment, and education. In addition, the report recommends that more funding be allocated toward reducing the economic burden of natural disasters. Alongside the construction of the disaster, implementing these recommendations would help build social capital (Deloitte Access Economics, 2016).
The Psychological Impact of Natural Calamities
Natural calamities like earthquakes can have a profound psychological impact on individuals and society. The fear and anxiety caused by the event can lead to long-term mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, the physical damage caused by the disaster can disrupt social and economic systems, leading to further psychological distress (Ćosić et al., 2020).
The psychological impact of natural calamities can be felt long after the event has occurred. For example, survivors of the 2011 earthquake in Japan still struggle with PTSD and other mental health issues. The Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed the earthquake also had a lasting psychological impact on the people of Japan (Maeda & Oe, 2017). Natural disasters can also have a positive impact on psychology. The sense of community and solidarity that often emerges in the aftermath of a disaster can help people cope with their trauma and rebuild their lives.
The recent earthquake in Turkey highlights natural disasters’ devastating impact on societies, from loss of life to long-term economic and social consequences. Climate change has made these events more frequent and destructive, and taking steps to mitigate their impact is crucial. In addition to physical damage, natural calamities can have significant psychological effects on survivors, and it is essential to provide mental health support to those affected. Natural disasters can also exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities, making it necessary to ensure that relief efforts prioritize the most vulnerable communities. Governments and relief organizations play a crucial role in providing emergency and long-term support, investing in disaster preparedness and response, improving infrastructure to withstand natural disasters, and addressing the root causes of climate change are essential to minimize the impact of future disasters.
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