Major earthquake strikes Turkey: U-M experts available

February 6, 2023


A powerful earthquake killed more than 2,000 people in Turkey and Syria on Monday. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake was followed several hours later by a magnitude 7.5 quake. University of Michigan experts are available to discuss.

Ben van der Pluijm is an earthquake geologist in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and an expert on geohazards.

“The magnitude 7.8 earthquake is equivalent to the explosive energy of 500 Hiroshima atomic bombs. Because the earthquake was relatively near the surface, it created major surface shaking that toppled buildings and moved land surface–including landslides,” he said. “The densely populated area’s infrastructure is basic human engineering and not well prepared for major shaking. So, the societal impact of these quakes is large, creating a humanitarian disaster region.”

The western half of Turkey is part of the Anatolia tectonic microplate, according to van der Pluijm. This small plate is wedged in between the Eurasian tectonic plate system to the north and the African+Arabian plate system to the south. These two large plate systems are converging (moving toward each other) at a couple of centimeters per year, and the small Anatolia plate that includes western Turkey is squeezed sideways, moving to the west.

This sideways displacement concentrates at Anatolia’s plate bounding faults: the North Anatolian Fault in northern Turkey and the South (also called East) Anatolian Fault in eastern Turkey. The latter fault moved Monday with a major magnitude 7.8 (left) lateral slip movement that matches the geologic setting. A family of subsequent movements (typically smaller magnitude) occurred on this boundary fault system and will continue in the coming days to weeks—including the most recent magnitude 7.5.

Contact: 734-678-1397,, vdpluijm55 (Skype)

Sue Anne Bell is an assistant professor at the School of Nursing and a trained nurse practitioner. Her expertise is in disaster preparedness and response, community health and provision of health care in emergency response settings. She is active in multiple emergency preparedness and response activities, including serving on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Advisory Council, with recent deployments to the COVID-19 response, Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires.

“Today’s devastating earthquake and the associated loss of human life is incomprehensible. The next 24 hours will be crucial to locating survivors,” she said. “Now is the time for the global community to act quickly in order to best support immediate response and longer-term recovery needs.”