Powerful earthquakes in Turkey, near the border with Syria, are likely to cause over $1bn in economic damages and the death toll could rise to tens of thousands, according to early expert analysis.\r\n\r\nThe US Geological Survey (USGS) said there is a 78% chance that the main shock will exceed economic losses of $1bn, while the second quake carries a 40% chance of exceeding $1bn in damages.\r\n\r\nEarly indications suggest only a limited amount of the loss will be insured, although Turkey\u2019s catastrophe insurance pool system provides a minimum level of compulsory earthquake cover. The pool renewed reinsurance with international reinsurers towards the end of 2022 but in 2021 had capacity to pay claims of $2.5bn.\r\n\r\nUSGS said the quake damage is likely to be extensive and the impact widespread, with significant numbers of casualties. It estimates a 47% likelihood of fatality numbers of between 1,000 and 10,000 from the main quake and a 20% risk of deaths in excess of 10,000, with the second large quake adding to the total.\r\n\r\nThe USGS said the initial earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8, followed by a second 7.5 quake nine hours later, is \u201crare anywhere in the world\u201d.\r\n\r\nUSGS scientist David Wald said: \u201cIt\u2019s difficult to watch this tragedy unfold, especially since we\u2019ve known for a long time about how poorly the buildings in the region tend to behave in earthquakes.\u201d He added: \u201cAn earthquake this size has the potential to be damaging anywhere in the world, but many structures in this region are particularly vulnerable.\u201d\r\n\r\nRobert Muir-Wood and Gordon Woo from Moody\u2019s RMS said the timing of the earthquake indicates higher numbers of fatalities. They also warned of a high probability of another major earthquake along the East Anatolian Fault boundary.\r\n\r\n\u201cWith the original earthquake striking at 4am when everyone is asleep in their apartments, this will mean very high casualties \u2013 in the many thousands, even 10,000 plus,\u201d they said.\r\n\r\n\u201cAfter devastating tragedies such as this current earthquake, it reminds us that resilience is the main defence against such powerful seismic events. Implementing and enforcing strong building codes and either retrofitting existing buildings or ensuring new builds conform, is a route to lessen the impact of any future earthquake,\u201d they said.\r\n\r\nTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo\u011fan said the earthquake is the country\u2019s biggest disaster since the Erzincan earthquake in 1939, which killed nearly 33,000.\r\n\r\nUSGS said the shocks were relatively shallow, which increased the intensity of shaking. Thirty aftershocks with a magnitude of at least 4.5 have been recorded along the East Anatolian fault, USGS said, with the number expected to rise further.\r\n\r\nOnly three earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger have been registered in the region since 1970, the agency said. The largest of those hit in January 2020. Steve Bowen, chief science officer at Gallagher Re, reportedly said losses for this 6.7 magnitude quake cost about $600m.\r\n\r\nMuir-Wood and Woo said buildings in Turkey, typically five to eight storeys high, are not designed to resist strong earthquakes.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis earthquake produced intense shaking in the epicentral region,\u201d said USGS scientist Kishor Jaiswal. \u201cWhile newer buildings in other parts of Turkey (like Istanbul) are designed with modern earthquake standards in mind, the area affected by this earthquake included more vulnerable buildings, like older types of concrete frames that were not designed from seismic considerations to absorb this much ground motion.\u201d\r\n\r\nAbout ten major cities have reported collapsed buildings from the earthquake. The cities of Kahramanmaras, Malatya and the Hayat region have been particularly affected.\r\n\r\nGaziantep in Turkey is the largest city along the path of the fault rupture, near the border with Syria. Muir-Wood and Woo said a study last year found only 11% of building stock in Gaziantep is fully compliant with building codes and 38% of buildings were not compliant with earthquake building codes.\r\n\r\nMuir-Wood and Woo said the fault rupture for the Turkey earthquake is likely to be around 200 kilometres long. They compared the size of the earthquake to the 2008 Wenchuan 7.9 magnitude earthquake in China, which ruptured along the Longmenshan Fault for 240 kilometres and killed more than 87,000 people.