October 24th, 2011

7.2Mw Earthquake in Eastern Turkey

Posted at 8:58 AM ET

turkey-quake-smallA powerful earthquake hit eastern Turkey at 10:41 UTC (13:41 local time) on October 23, causing severe shaking in Van Province and surrounding areas. The earthquake was the most powerful to hit Turkey since 1999 and widespread damage has been reported across eastern regions of the country. The event, measuring 7.2 Mw, was located 16 kilometers (9 miles) north-northeast of the town of Van near the Iranian border. It was also centered a relatively shallow 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) underground, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS added that around 10.6 million people live in areas impacted by a Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) or V or higher. Van City (population of 372,000) experienced intensity IX on the MMI scale, equivalent to violent shaking with the potential to cause heavy damage to resistant buildings and very heavy damage to more vulnerable structures. Elsewhere, the towns of Ercis (92,000), Gevas (12,000) and Ozalp (8,000) were hit by MMI intensity VIII, very strong shaking that can cause moderate to heavy structural damage. More than 100 aftershocks have hit the region since the main earthquake, the most powerful at 6.0Mw.

Estimated Population Exposed to Significant Earthquake Shaking

Estimated MMI

Estimated Population Exposure

Perceived Shaking












Very strong








Reports said the shaking was felt across much of Turkey and over the border in northwestern Iran and Armenia. The earthquake was the most powerful to hit Van Province since 1976, when more than 5,000 people were killed, according to reports. It was also the strongest earthquake to hit Turkey since 1999, when a 7.2 magnitude event struck Duzce in November and a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit northwestern Turkey in August.



Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or GC Analytics (SM) representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.


Damage Assessment

Officials say more than 260 people have so far been confirmed dead following yesterday’s earthquake. Around 1,300 people have also been injured. There are fears the death toll will increase as rescuers sift through the rubble and reach outlying villages. Reports said Turkey has mobilized more than 1,200 search and rescue teams from 38 cities. The military said six battalions were also involved in search and rescue efforts.

Severe and widespread damage has been reported across eastern Turkey after hundreds of buildings collapsed and downed power lines caused extensive power cuts. The government said that a total of 970 buildings collapsed as a result of the earthquake and its aftershocks. Turkey’s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute, meanwhile, estimates around 1,000 buildings have been damaged and between 500 and 1,000 people may have died in the earthquake. It added that it based its estimate on the 7.2 magnitude of the earthquake.

Specific damage information remains sketchy but reports indicate the cities of Van and Ercis were particularly badly hit, with the worst of the damage in Ercis. Several buildings have collapsed in both cities, some reportedly eight stories high, and government officials have confirmed 169 fatalities in Ercis and 95 more in Van. Reports said around 80 buildings collapsed in Ercis, including a student dormitory and a hospital, while 10 fell in Van. Several roads in the region were impassable and the airport in Van was also damaged, according to reports.

Serious damage and casualties were also reported in the district of Celebibag, near Ercis. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said an unknown number of people remain unaccounted for under collapsed buildings. He added he feared the worst for villagers living in outlying rural areas as most buildings there were made of clay bricks.

Insurance Information

No definitive insured loss estimate has been released for yesterday’s earthquake as of yet. However, reports say the epicenter location in the remote and mountainous eastern region near the Iranian border is one of the poorest in Turkey and insurance penetration is therefore relatively low. Only 9 percent of buildings in Van Province have compulsory earthquake insurance, according to Turkey’s natural disaster insurance institution. AIR Worldwide also noted the country’s buildings have a poor record of seismic performance due to inadequate building standards.

Sources:  USGS, WSI, Reuters News, Associated News, Agence France Presse, CNN News, BBC News, Insurance Day

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Guy Carpenter publishes CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

Guy Carpenter compiles RISK-i reports for major technological or man-made events worldwide. These reports cover risks to property, transport and life including explosions, fires, crashes, engineering disasters and terrorist attacks that are likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email RISK.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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