13 February 2023

Emerging information about landslides from the 6 February 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquakes

Posted by Dave Petley

Emerging information about landslide from the 6 February 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquakes

The loss of life from the dreadful 6 February 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquakes has now reached a horrifying 33,000 people, with further increases possible.  Media interest is starting to wane as the rescue operation winds down.  It is worth noting that whilst a small number of remarkable rescues continue to occur, providing for the millions displaced and the thousands who have been injured is likely to be the biggest challenge, and needs to be the focus of attention.  This will last for years, long after the cameras have disappeared.  The plight of those left in refugee camps is often very poor, especially for women and girls.

In tis context, writing about landslides feels trivial, but of course in their own right they cause major challenges.  Amongst the many tweets about the fault are some that show landslides and other types of ground failure.  For example, @Sabah has tweeted a remarkable video of the aftermath of a catastrophic lateral spread in a road embankment:-


The translation states that:-

“The collapse of the road to the village of Koseli, which passes over the Adıyaman-Sanliurfa-Gaziantep Highway, and the huge cracks that formed once again showed the magnitude of the earthquake.”

This is a still from the video:-

An extraordinary lateral spread in an embankment, triggered by the 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquakes.

An extraordinary lateral spread in an embankment, triggered by the 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquakes. Image from a video posted to Twitter by @Sabah.


This would make an interesting case study for further analysis.  I find it interesting that the highest part of the embankment, in the distance in the image, did not fail, and that there are signs of deformation in the ground beyond the ditch on the left side of the image.  I am not an expert in lateral spreads, but I wonder if this involved failure in the ground below the embankment?  The failure is quite reminiscent of the event triggered by the 30 November 2018 Alaska earthquake.

Meanwhile, another very large failure has attracted considerable attention. On social media there has been some confusion between a landslide and the fault scarp over this event, but Dr Judith Hubbard at Cornell has provided clarity:-


It is worth reading the full thread – I agree with her analysis that this is a large slope failure.  She has tracked down the location to 36.159, 36.223.

Finally (for now?), Nahel Belgherze has identified another large slope failure from satellite imagery:-



The location is 37.003, 36.592.  Note the damage to the road at the foot of the slope.

I suspect that more landslides will become evident in the coming days, but clearly (and rightly) this has not been the priority so date.