SUNY Oswego professor uses earthquakes as teaching moment

OSWEGO, N.Y.— A massive earthquake struck the countries of Syria and Turkey on Monday and unleashed consequential destruction, fatalities, and mayhem over the already fragile region.

This event has become a teaching moment for geology professors at SUNY Oswego such as David Valentino, who utilized this tragedy as a way to explain how the earth’s plates move. 

“The country of Turkey is literally moving in that direction a few centimeters per year,” Valentino said, “and the reason that’s happening is that the Arabian plate, which … is literally moving due north and colliding into the rest of the central part of [the] Eurasia plate, Europe and Asian plate. This piece of continental material is literally moving out of the way.”

People in Turkey and Syria were woken up at 4:17 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 6 to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. This came on the same day as a magnitude 3.8 earthquake, which hit the Western New York region. Compared to this earthquake, Syria and Turkey’s was 10,000 times stronger and released 1 million times more energy than what people in Buffalo experienced.

Thousands have died due to the effects of the earthquake in the Middle East and thousands of buildings have been destroyed. 

Valentino also told students what causes the most injuries and death when an earthquake hits.

“I read in the news there are 11,000 dead so far and the apartment buildings are completely collapsed,” Valentino said. “And the earthquakes shook those down the buildings. What we say in geology is that buildings kill, but earthquakes don’t.”

The international community says they are coming together to help with the humanitarian crisis caused by the Middle Eastern earthquake. President Joe Biden has announced on Twitter that the United States is monitoring the situation and is planning on providing assistance to NATO member Turkey.

Over 380,000 people have taken refuge in Turkey across hotels, shelters and other gathering places. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that 13 million Turks felt the earthquake in some way or another, and 10 provinces in the country are in a state of emergency.