New satellite photos show surface cracks from devastating Turkey earthquake

Surface cracks caused by the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey on Feb. 6, 2023, are visible in satellite images.
A surface rupture caused by one of the devastating earthquakes that hit Turkey on Feb. 6, 2023, is visible in images taken by Earth-observing satellites of U.S. company Maxar Technologies. (Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Earth-observation satellites continue to assess the vast damage in Turkey and Syria caused by the devastating series of earthquakes that struck on Feb. 6. 

New images from the U.S. Earth-observation company Maxar Technologies show surface cracks that appeared when three lithospheric plates that meet in the affected region — the Anatolian, Arabian and African plates — collided on that fateful Monday. 

In one of these images, a surface fissure crosses the Turkish city of Nurdagi, where thousands of people have perished underneath collapsed buildings. Maxar satellites also caught a glimpse of the rupture near the city of Türkoğlu, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Nurdagi, where the crack is visible across a distance of several miles. 

Related: Turkey earthquake devastation spotted by satellites (photos) 

Images captured by researchers and eyewitnesses on the ground are a testimony to the enormous power unleashed by the series of earthquakes that peaked with two temblors that registered at 7.8 and 7.5 on the Richter scale, respectively. 

An image shared on Twitter by U.S.-based geologist Shreya Arora reveals a cliff-like edge splitting what previously had been a smooth snow-covered slope. 

The earthquakes, the worst in decades for the tectonically treacherous region around the Turkish-Syrian border, have killed over 37,000 people so far and made tens of thousands of others homeless. Rescue operations are proceeding slowly, especially on the Syrian side of the border, where relief efforts are complicated by a years-long civil war.

European Earth-observing satellites previously revealed that the two fissures split open by the two main tremors last week are among the longest ever seen, professor Tim Wright, who leads the U.K. Centre for the Observation & Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes & Tectonics, told last week. 

The longer fissure, produced by the first, more powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake, stretches 190 miles (300 km) northeast from the northeastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea. The shorter, 80-mile-long (125 km) crack, opened by the second, somewhat milder tremor, runs from west to east, partly in parallel with a section of the first fissure. 

The images showed that the ground moved by up to 16 feet (5 meters) in some parts of the fissure. 

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Tereza Pultarova
Senior Writer

Tereza is a London-based science and technology journalist, aspiring fiction writer and amateur gymnast. Originally from Prague, the Czech Republic, she spent the first seven years of her career working as a reporter, script-writer and presenter for various TV programmes of the Czech Public Service Television. She later took a career break to pursue further education and added a Master's in Science from the International Space University, France, to her Bachelor's in Journalism and Master's in Cultural Anthropology from Prague's Charles University. She worked as a reporter at the Engineering and Technology magazine, freelanced for a range of publications including Live Science,, Professional Engineering, Via Satellite and Space News and served as a maternity cover science editor at the European Space Agency.