Assessing the impact of Syrian refugees on earthquake fatality estimations in southeast Turkey
The influx of millions of Syrian refugees into Turkey has rapidly changed the population distribution along the Dead Sea Rift and East Anatolian fault zones. In contrast to other countries in the Middle East where refugees are accommodated in camp environments, the majority of displaced individuals in Turkey are integrated into local cities, towns, and villages – placing stress on urban settings and increasing potential exposure to strong earthquake shaking. Yet displaced populations are often unaccounted for in the census-based population models used in earthquake fatality estimations. This study creates a minimally modeled refugee gridded population model and analyzes its impact on semi-empirical fatality estimations across southeast Turkey. Daytime and nighttime fatality estimates were produced for five fault segments at earthquake magnitudes 5.8, 6.4, and 7.0. Baseline fatality estimates calculated from census-based population estimates for the study area varied in scale from tens to thousands of fatalities, with higher death totals in nighttime scenarios. Refugee fatality estimations were analyzed across 500 semi-random building occupancy distributions. Median fatality estimates for refugee populations added non-negligible contributions to earthquake fatalities at four of five fault locations, increasing total fatality estimates by 7–27 %. These findings communicate the necessity of incorporating refugee statistics into earthquake fatality estimations in southeast Turkey and the ongoing importance of placing environmental hazards in their appropriate regional and temporal context.