The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Turkey early Monday is tied as the strongest the country has experienced in more than 100 years of records, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The USGS said an equally powerful 7.8 magnitude quake that hit eastern Turkey in 1939 resulted in more than 30,000 deaths.
Karl Lang, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech University’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, told CNN the area hit by the quake Monday is prone to seismic activity.
“It’s a seismogenic area. It’s a very large fault zone, but this is a larger earthquake than they’ve experienced any time in recent memory,” Lang said.
“The magnitude of shaking that is felt on the surface is both a function of the amount of energy released, the size of the earthquake, but also how far that energy is released below the surface. So if it is very close to the surface, if it is a shallow earthquake, then it can be very dangerous.”
Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring per year anywhere in the world, on average.
“What’s really unusual here is that it’s a very large earthquake that is also close to the surface,” Lang said.
Some context: Turkey is no stranger to strong earthquakes; seven quakes with magnitude 7.0 or greater have struck the country in the past 25 years — but Monday’s is the most powerful. It is also the strongest quake to hit anywhere in the world since an 8.1 magnitude quake struck a remote region near the South Sandwich Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean in 2021, resulting in no damage.