Scientists might not be in a position to predict an earthquake but they can forecast the type of damage a strong quake could wreak on the buildings of a city, helping avert collapses, deaths and financial repercussions. Experts from the Institute of Technical Seismology and Anti-Seismic Structures (ITSAK) and the Concrete Laboratory at Thessaloniki University have developed a method to predict the extent of damage to structures in a town hit by an earthquake and to predict the cost. The method was tested as part of a program run by the Anti-Seismic Protection Organization (OASP) in the catastrophic quake in Athens in 1999, when 1,800 buildings were examined. The estimated cost of the damages varied only slightly from the actual costs. There is a plan for another 3,000 buildings to be tested the same way in Thessaloniki. ITSAK’s director, Vassilis Lekidis, told Kathimerini the State would be able to use the method to set priorities, based on earlier evaluations of damage likely to occur in the event of a quake, to considerably strengthen important buildings, such as energy sources, hospitals and industries. «Knowledge of the state of buildings, the likely damage and financial cost of an earthquake can be included in emergency plans drawn up by the prefectures and for earthquake response planning in general. These scenarios can be useful for residents of an area, as they will know how buildings will respond in a strong quake and, of course, can take necessary action beforehand to limit the consequences,» he claimed.