Syrian refugees fleeing civil war have flooded into areas of Turkey that are riven with dangerous earthquake faults, new research shows.
As a result, traditional seismic hazard maps may underestimate by 20 percent how many people could die in a cataclysmic quake, according to research presented here today (Dec.13) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
"The total scale of fatalities that the earthquake scenarios show are significant enough to potentially inspire some action," Bradley Wilson, a geoscientist at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, told Live Science.
Over the last five years, Turkey has taken in more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees, according to the U.N. Refuge Agency. Many of these people have settled in areas that have experienced catastrophic earthquakes in the past.
However, typical seismic hazard maps may not include these newer residents.
To remedy that problem, Wilson used estimates of refugee population distribution collected by the State Department's U.S. Humanitarian Information Unit. Though the Humanitarian Information Unit keeps some of its methodology private, there are some basic elements to its population estimates. For instance, the Humanitarian Information Unit may combine data from registered refugees in camps, with surveys taken by workers on the ground, as well as aerial imagery, to estimate the number of refugees in particular districts of Turkey, according to Wilson.
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