About two weeks ago, a strong earthquake (5.9 magnitudes) at a depth of 7 kilometers shook the city of Khoy in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province at around 21:44 local time. The quake was strong enough that even the people in Urmia felt the shocks.
According to the state-run media, at least three people lost their lives in the disaster and more than 1000 people were injured. Reports indicate more than 70 villages have been damaged, with around 20 of them almost completely decimated. More than 30 villages are also lacking electricity.
The people in the province have lost their shelters and homes and have been forced to live outdoors. With the aid being provided by the Iranian regime paltry at best, much of it is also being looted by the regime’s local officials, even the aid that the people themselves have provided.
According to regime officials, the total number of possibly damaged urban residential units is estimated at 4,975. The total number of rural residential units is estimated at 906 while the number of possible damaged settlements is 123.
The deputy of the regime’s Red Crescent has said that a total of 262,000 people, including nearly 78,000 families, were affected by the earthquake. The people, afraid of the subsequent earthquakes that are likely to follow, spend the nights in the streets despite the unbearable cold after losing everything.
Around 95 aftershocks were reported in the area from the first quake until last Thursday. Messages on social media have indicated that in addition to heating devices, the lack of food is one of the major problems in earthquake-affected areas. As usual, the regime is doing all it can to hide the dimensions of the catastrophe and are adamant about censoring the news.
In an article published by the state-run Etemad daily on January 31, a geologist named Mehdi Zareh spoke about one of the reasons for the increase in earthquakes in this region and said, “The third earthquake in the past 4 months with a magnitude between 5.5 and 6 occurred at 21:44 on Saturday 28 January, 7 km southeast of Khoy in West Azerbaijan province. Two previous events, both with a magnitude of 5.6, occurred in the same region on October 5, 2022, and January 18, 2023, respectively.”
He added, “The earthquake of January 28 was bigger than the previous two events. All three of these earthquakes happened along the Siah Cheshmeh-Khoy fault. All of them had the same characteristics. The earthquake on January 18, 2023, with a magnitude of 5.6 occurred in Firuraq, about 10 kilometers west of Khoy, and the earthquake on October 5, 2022, with a magnitude of 5.6 occurred 7 kilometers southeast of Khoy.”
Dr. Zareh further explained, “Three years ago, on February 23, 2020, two earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.8 and 6.0 respectively occurred along Salma’s fault and another one with a magnitude of 6.0 along the Qatur fault in ‘Bash Qala’ (Turkey) in West Azerbaijan.”
He then raised a question and said, “Has the drying up of Lake Urmia helped to stimulate the faults in the region and clearly caused the sequence of earthquakes?”
Referring to the regime’s destruction of the ecological environment in this region, he explained, “Due to the construction of numerous dams on the main branches of the lake’s catchment area, the extraction of underground water in the area around the lake, the decrease in rainfall and of course the drought, Lake Urmia has not received its water rights, especially since the mid-90s. By the fall of 2021, about 95% of its water volume has been lost (compared to the situation in 1996). This lake once had an area of 5000 square kilometers and a water volume of about 23 billion cubic meters. Now, about less than 1000 square kilometers of the lake’s surface remain.”
This region is also facing a critical underground water crisis. In November 2020, West Azerbaijan Regional Water Organization announced, “Salmas and Kahriz plains are two prohibited and critical plains in terms of underground water in the province, Salmas plain shows a decrease of 250 million cubic meters of water in the aquifer. Annually, about five million cubic meters of underground water decrease is registered in this basin, and its aquifer level has decreased by 18 meters.”
Dr. Zareh continued his speech, stating, “The depletion of about 22 cubic kilometers from the water of Lake Urmia and the depletion of underground water has influenced surface sediments and the environment around the lake. Sediment characteristics affect the mechanical properties and thus the tendency to deform. Sudden changes in mechanical properties, such as shear strength, cause them to act during seismic loading by reducing resistance and accumulating deformation above or within sediments and on fault surfaces.”
He concluded, “If changes in the surface water of a lake and the surrounding groundwater are large enough, they will change the stresses on the fault. Looking at the short and long-term trends, micro-seismicity patterns have been associated with annual changes in water extraction in the area around Lake Urmia.”
It should be noted that such a phenomenon is currently being scientifically approved. Professor Chi-Yuen Wang from the Department of Earth and Planetary Science of the University of California, and Professor Michael Manga, chair of the same department, have explained precisely the catastrophes caused by human activities in their book “Water and Earthquake” published in 2021.