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After another earthquake in Turkey, what scientists know about aftershocks

A 6.4-magnitude quake hit the Hatay province in southern Turkey, in Antakya, on February 21 — two weeks after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of February 6, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor shortly thereafter. The initial quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and has killed more than 44,000 people.
Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP via Getty Images

Monday another earthquake struck southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border. This time, the quake registered as a magnitude 6.3 — an order lower than the initial, devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake and the magnitude 7.5 aftershock that struck the area two weeks ago on Feb. 6. As of Tuesday, at least six people were killed and more than 200 injured in the latest quake.

A magnitude 6.3 is still considered strong, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). And as NPR previously reported, some locals were inside buildings trying to recover belongings lost in the initial quake when Monday’s aftershock hit.

It made us wonder: What are aftershocks? And how long will people in Turkey and neighboring countries like Syria have to endure aftershocks while piecing their lives back together? Days? Years?

Unfortunately, no technology exists that will precisely and accurately predict when another aftershock may happen.

“I would love to be able to say to the people in Syria and Turkey like, ‘You’re done. It’s good. It’s over — time to rebuild,'” says Bohan. “But we know that the earth works in particular ways, and we know that more aftershocks are likely and they’re going to continue to feel shaking. And … it’s such a traumatizing, devastating situation.”

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Today’s episode was produced by Liz Metzger, edited by supervising producer Rebecca Ramirez, and fact-checked by Anil Oza. The audio engineer for this episode was Robert Rodriguez.

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