No tsunami monitoring

While killer tsunamis comparable to those caused by Sunday’s giant earthquake off Indonesia are known to have struck the Aegean archipelago and surrounding coastal areas in the not-so-distant past, Greece still lacks an early warning system for tidal waves, scientists warned yesterday. Only one experimental program of the sort is currently under way, monitoring the area between Crete and the Peloponnese, but it is not yet fully operational, according to project leader Gerassimos Papadopoulos, head of the Athens Geodynamics Institute. «The system can be rendered fully operational provided additional, state-of-the-art equipment is acquired which will allow, among others, the immediate transferral of data to the Geodynamics Institute,» he told Kathimerini. Currently, the system comprises two tide monitors and five seismographs. Eventually, it could be developed to provide a timely warning for islanders and residents of coastal settlements in cases of tsunamis. A total of 83 large earthquakes that went on to cause tsunamis have been recorded in Greece. The worst danger spots are the western Gulf of Corinth, the Maliakos Gulf, the Cyclades, Crete, the Dodecanese, Chios and the coast of western Greece. While the most destructive incidents date to ancient times – a 365 AD quake caused extensive damage in the eastern Mediterranean, killing 50,000 people in Alexandria alone – as recently as 1956 a 7.5 Richter quake in the Cyclades caused waves up to 25 meters high at Amorgos, 20 meters at Astypalaia and five meters at Crete. «There should be an early-warning system for tsunamis, in which all earthquake experts and related bodies will participate,» Athens University professor of geology Efthymios Lekkas said. «Attention should also be given to establishing operational readiness plans.» Greek seismologists were divided yesterday on whether Sunday’s earthquake could trigger quakes in other parts of the world, including Greece. «The possibility of Greece and the Mediterranean being affected is small, but not non-existent,» Lekkas said.