2 more minor quakes rattle Israel, bringing number of tremors felt in past day to 3

Earthquake detection system seen working on live TV as top scientist at Geological Survey gives interview on initial tremor

EMSC initial image of minor earthquake felt in Israel, February 8, 2023 (European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre)
EMSC initial image of minor earthquake felt in Israel, February 8, 2023 (European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre)

Two minor temblors rattled Israel on Wednesday evening, amid fears the country could face a major earthquake like the deadly ones that have killed more than 11,000 people in nearby Turkey and Syria.

The tremors measured at 3.3 and 3.9 on the Richter scale, with the first centered around central Israel and the second in Lebanon but also felt across the border. They followed a 3.5-magnitude tremor on Tuesday night that was centered around 15 kilometers (9 miles) southeast of the settlement city of Ariel in the West Bank.

No injuries have been reported as a result of any of the three earthquakes.

The Home Front Command said that warning sirens were not sounded for any of the quakes because the tremors posed no danger to residents.

The warning system put in place last year in cooperation with the Geological Survey of Israel can issue an alert to citizens with sirens, similar to those used in rocket attacks, within seven seconds of a quake that measures more than 4.5 on the Richter scale.

The effectiveness of the system was captured on live TV with the Kan public broadcaster interviewing the head of the Geological Survey of Israel when sirens blared in the institute’s headquarters signaling an incoming earthquake.

Prof. Zohar Gvirtzman of the Geological Survey of Israel during an interview with Kan on February 8, 2023. (Screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

“If you can hear that noise behind me, our system has just registered an earthquake,” said Prof. Zohar Gvirtzman during the interview that was supposed to have been about the previous day’s quake.

“I need to check and clarify with the seismologists here the details,” he said.

Gvirtzman and fellow scientists at the Geological Survey have been urging the country to use the earthquake in Turkey and Syria as a wake-up call.

Speaking earlier Wednesday to the Ynet news site, Dr. Amir Sagy said Israel needs to step up its preparedness for an earthquake.

Sagy said it was not clear if the local quakes were related to the major one in Turkey, noting that these minor earthquakes were regular occurrences, but said it was a possibility that it was a result of the disturbances in Turkey and Syria.

“It could be that because there was a big earthquake in the northern region, the whole area is now more or less ringing with small tremors,” he said.

“I suggest that we not be specifically concerned by this earthquake in Israel, but one should always remember that we are an area that’s prone to medium and large earthquakes that will affect the State of Israel, and we should constantly prepare for earthquakes and take into account that they will happen,” said Sagy.

People remove furniture and household appliances out of a collapsed building after a devastating earthquake rocked Syria and Turkey in the town of Jinderis, Aleppo province, Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (AP/Ghaith Alsayed)

Sagy said that the Turkey quake needed to be “a general warning sign for us.”

He noted that without connection to recent events, Israel sits on the Syrian-African Rift, which is prone to quakes every 100 years, and is currently overdue for a “medium to major seismic event.”

“We have to take into account this will happen in our lifetime and prepare for it on a wide range of levels,” he said.

In the wake of the Turkey-Syria earthquake, several Israeli government offices have convened emergency meetings to reassess the country’s preparedness for a major quake.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Monday said the premier had directed National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi to conduct a situational assessment regarding the government’s preparedness for earthquakes. Hanegbi will soon hold a meeting on the matter with representatives from all of the relevant ministries, the PMO said.

Also on Monday, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman urged authorities to fortify the country against a potentially devastating earthquake and pointed to the disaster in Turkey and Syria as indications of the urgency of doing so.

Englman pointed to a 2018 report from his predecessor that estimated a major earthquake could kill 7,000 people and leave 170,000 homeless. Last year, a comptroller report found there were 600,000 buildings in the country that do not meet the standard for earthquake resistance.

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