October 26th, 2011

Update: 7.2Mw Earthquake in Eastern Turkey

Posted at 9:35 AM ET

turkey-quake-2-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, with more than 2,200 homes destroyed or damaged. 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 centerd a relatively shallow 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) underground, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS added that around 16.7 million people live in areas impacted by a Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) or V or higher. Van City (population of 372,000) experienced intensity VIII on the MMI scale, equivalent to severe shaking with the potential to cause moderate to heavy damage to resistant buildings and heavy damage to more vulnerable structures. Elsewhere, the city of Ercis (92,000) and the town of Sarmansuyu (7,000) were hit by MMI intensity VII, very strong shaking that can cause moderate to heavy structural damage. More than 500 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, although no significant damage was reported in either country. The earthquake was the most powerful to hit Van Province since 1976, 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 450 people have so far been confirmed dead in the Van Province earthquake. Most of the casualties have been in Ercis and Van and authorities have now expanded their search to outlaying areas, including Ozkaymak, Kumluca, Ocakli and Gedikbulak. Around 1,350 people have also been injured and tens of thousands of people have been made homeless. There are fears the death toll will increase as rescuers sift through the rubble. Reports said Turkey has mobilized more than 3,000 search and rescue personnel.

Severe and widespread damage has been reported across eastern Turkey after hundreds of buildings collapsed and downed power lines caused extensive power cuts. Pipeline damage has also disrupted gas and water supplies in several towns and cities. The Disaster and Emergency Administration said more than 2,260 buildings have sustained damage ranging from moderate to complete. Turkey’s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute, meanwhile, estimated that 3 percent of buildings in Van Province have been irreparably damaged and between 500 and 1,000 people may have died in the earthquake.

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. Reports said around 80 multi-storey buildings collapsed in Ercis, including hotels, a student dormitory and a hospital, while 10 fell in Van. Several roads in the region were cracked, including the road connecting Van and Ercis, and the airport in Van was also damaged. Flights have since resumed at the airport.

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.

Insured Losses

According to EQECAT, the earthquake is expected to cause an insured loss of between USD100 million and USD200 million and much of the cost will be covered by the Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool (TCIP), a national program of compulsory earthquake insurance for residential buildings. EQECAT added that economic loss is expected to be in “low single digit billions” of dollars, about 10 percent of that caused by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake in northwestern Turkey in 1999. AIR Worldwide, meanwhile, said insured losses from the earthquake are likely to be between TRY100 million (USD55 million) and TRY300 million (USD170 million). AIR added their estimate accounts for physical damage to residential and commercial properties. The residential estimate also includes estimated losses for the TCIP.

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 some 9 percent of buildings in Van Province have compulsory earthquake insurance, according to Turkey’s Natural Disaster Insurance Institution. AIR added that the damage severity and extent seems to be similar to that from past events in Turkey, marked by inadequate reinforcement, lack of confinement at beam-column connections, low-quality concrete and soft first stories of buildings. AIR also said questions remain over building code enforcement in the region.

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

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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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