Quake danger ‘has passed’

Seismologists reassured the public yesterday that the powerful earthquake which rocked Greece on Sunday was not the precursor for an even bigger quake, as authorities began assessing the damage done by one of the biggest tremors to hit the country. The 6.9 Richter earthquake struck Sunday at lunchtime, close to the island of Kythera, and was felt all the way from southern Italy to Jordan. The intensity and length of the quake caused concern, particularly to people living in high-rise apartment blocks, but experts sought to allay fears that bigger quakes could come. «According to new information, our initial assessment that this was the main earthquake has been confirmed,» the head of the Geodynamic Institute of the Athens Observatory, Giorgos Stavrakakis, told Kathimerini yesterday. «The earthquake occurred at an intermediate depth and that is why there have been no major aftershocks,» added Stavrakakis, saying that it was unusual for these types of quakes to trigger other seismic activity. The epicenter of the quake was some 70 kilometers below the surface of the sea. Eminent seismologist Vassilis Papazachos predicted in 2002 that an earthquake of a similar magnitude would soon strike Kythera and the southern Peloponnese. His secret report was published in Kathimerini in May 2002. However, the government yesterday denied that it had received any official notification from Papazachos about his prediction and said that it was impossible to prepare for an earthquake based on indefinite forecasts. Authorities on Kythera and Crete were yesterday checking buildings for damage. Some 30 buildings, including a Byzantine church, were deemed too dangerous for use, while engineers said that about 30 more needed serious repairs. Divers were also checking the harbor at Aghia Pelagia for damage. Some 50 houses were damaged in Hania, Crete, and another 30 in the Peloponnese were in need of repairs. Engineers will continue their checks today.

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