A 6.5-magnitude earthquake is expected to hit Israel in the coming decades, years, or even weeks, potentially causing hundreds of casualties and some serious devastation, researchers from Tel Aviv University warned on Tuesday, citing the results of a drilling study that probed the bed of the Dead Sea.
"In the coming years, it is likely that a devastating earthquake will hit, causing hundreds of deaths", the university's statement reads. Researchers suggest that its magnitude would be felt many kilometres away.
There is no way of predicting exactly when the tremor will occur, says Professor Shmuel Marco, head of Tel Aviv University's Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, but the scholar notes that "the geological record does not lie", as quakes of that scale usually occur every 130-150 years.
"This is a statistical projection - but unfortunately, I can say that an earthquake that will cause hundreds of casualties will hit in the coming years", the professor said, as quoted by The Times of Israel. "I don't want to cause alarm, but we are living in a tectonically active period".
"It could be in ten years or in several decades, but it could also be next week, and we need to constantly be prepared for that", Marco added.
The research, published in Science Advances, also predicted that another major incident, an even more dangerous one, with a 7.5-magnitude listing, could occur in the next several centuries, something that has not happened since 1033.
Scientists previously believed that quakes of that magnitude happen no more often that every 10,000 years, but the study concluded that they may actually take place somewhere between 1,300 to 1,400 years. According to the researchers, who studied the geological history of tremors in the last 220,000 years under the auspices of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Programme, the frequency of quakes in the Dead Sea valley was not entirely fixed. Thus, they actually may only have decades between their occurrences.
In 1927, the Dead Sea valley experienced a 6.2-magnitude earthquake that led to nearly 500 deaths and hundreds of injuries in the nearby cities of Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Bethlehem. The most recent tremor, estimated to be 3.8 on the Richter scale, hit the area close to a popular tourist destination, Eilat located next to the Gulf of Aqaba.