Turkey earthquake devastation spotted by satellites (photos)

damaged buildings and rubble seen at the street level from above
Devastation from the 2023 Turkey earthquaqe in central Kahramanmaraş, Turkey was captured by Planet on Feb. 7. (Image credit: Planet)

Satellites are assessing the damage following a devastating earthquake affecting Turkey and numerous other countries on Monday (Feb. 6).

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck overnight in Turkey and Syria, flattening buildings and creating debris visible in satellite imagery from Planet, Maxar and other entities monitoring the region. Hours later, a second quake of magnitude 7.5 shook those countries. Both tremors were felt in nearby nations. 

At least 11,200 people are reported dead in the wake of the disaster, according to Time, as a dangerous and urgent search for survivors continues. The first earthquake, the report added, was felt in regions as far afield as Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, Israel and Palestine.

Related: Turkey earthquake prompts United Nations to activate emergency satellite mapping

Users on Twitter are also reviewing data available from the satellite providers and posting processed images.

The International Space Station Expedition 68 crew has an orbit that brings it approximately 250 miles (400 kilometers) over Turkey. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata shared a picture on Twitter from their orbital perch on Wednesday (Feb. 8).

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people in Turkey, Syria, and all the affected areas devastated by the earthquake," Wakata wrote.

Twitter accounts from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Space Agency have not yet posted Turkey images, which may take several days for the agencies to collect depending on available satellite time, their orbits and cloud cover.

Satellite imagery and orbital observations will be used alongside other data to help those coping with the disaster get resources where they are needed. A live map with geospatial data is available via the United Nations Satellite Centre website

The center announced Monday on Twitter that it has activated its mapping service, which "provides satellite image analysis during humanitarian emergencies related to disasters, complex emergencies and conflict situations."

No satellites are directly operated by that center, but it does work with U.N. member states to gather imagery from their governmental agencies and private satellite operators. Maxar has pledged to provide imagery to "multiple organizations", while Planet said it is planning to provide more updates in the coming days.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace