BLACKSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria on Monday, reportedly killing more than 7,000 people and impacting 23 million people, according to ABC News.

Virginia Tech professor Robert Weiss studies earthquakes. He told 8News that both countries are no strangers to natural disasters.

“This is not the first time that we have large earthquake in the area. It’s happened several times in the past decades. It’s nothing new, something to expect,” Weiss explained.

According to Weiss, the most devastating part of the earthquake wasn’t just the destruction but when it happened.

“So many people present at the time [were] sleeping,” he said. “It occurred overnight. They were in the houses not maybe feeling necessarily the onset of it so they were kind of taken by surprise.”

The disaster impacted the Turkish city of Pazarcik and resulted in several aftershocks. Eight-thousand people were also rescued in Turkey.

A man searches collapsed buildings in Diyarbakir, southern Turkey, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. A powerful earthquake has caused significant damage in southeast Turkey and Syria and many casualties are feared. Damage was reported across several Turkish provinces, and rescue teams were being sent from around the country. (Depo Photos via AP)

Weiss told 8News what caused this powerful disaster.

“Earth is a very dynamic planet, so plates are constantly moving driven by currents that occur in the earth’s mantle below. That creates plates pushing against each other,” he said. “That pushing against each other generates stress against the crust and that relates to earthquakes.”

On Monday, Feb. 6, Virginia Task Force 1 left for Turkey to help survivors. The country has also declared a three-month state of emergency.