NEWS

Strong earthquakes shake Gavdos but cause no injuries or damage

Two strong undersea earthquakes shook the island of Gavdos, south of Crete, early yesterday but caused no injuries or damage. The first quake, registering 4.8 on the Richter scale, occurred at 6.21 a.m. and its epicenter was 350 kilometers (217 miles) southeast of Athens, the Athens Geodynamic Institute said. The second, hitting 5.3 on the Richter scale, struck at 7.03 a.m. with the same epicenter. The rift which lies under Gavdos, the southernmost point of Europe, is part of a large Greek earthquake zone running from Cephalonia in the west, passing south under Crete and swinging eastward to Rhodes and southern Turkey. Seismologists said that the incident was no cause for alarm. Stavros Tassos of the Athens Geodynamic Institute said that the 5.3-Richter temblor appeared to be the main quake. The Gavdos region produces quakes of such magnitude, he said. The fact that the epicenter is in the sea does not create worries about the damage to homes. Stefanos Bikoyiannakis, secretary of the small community that lives on Gavdos, said that the quake frightened residents who were shaken out of their sleep by the first quake but that there was no damage to any buildings on the island. The quakes yesterday shook much of southwestern Crete as well. The EU says this would be tantamount to letting Turkey veto missions of its 60,000-strong crisis management force, due to be fully operational – that is, ready to be deployed within 60 days in and around Europe – by mid-2003.