Powerful quakes hit Peloponnese

Two powerful quakes, measuring 6.5 and 6.4 on the Richter scale, shook the region of Messinia, in the Peloponnese, yesterday lunchtime, and were felt as far away as Italy and Egypt, but there were no reports of injuries or serious damage. The first undersea quake occurred some 60 kilometers south of Methoni, in the southern Peloponnese, at 12.09 p.m., and lasted around 15 seconds. It was followed, almost exactly two hours later, by an aftershock at the same epicenter, which was almost as strong as the original quake. The strength, and duration, of the quakes sent hundreds of panicked local residents out into the streets and led to schools and offices being evacuated. The quakes were felt in part of Athens and even in parts of Italy as well as Cairo. But the great depth of the quakes – 30 kilometers below sea level – averted any widespread damage at the surface level, experts said. Local authorities reported only minor damage, such as cracks in walls and plaster falling off the facades of buildings. Schools in the prefectures of Messinia and Arcadia are to remain closed tomorrow as a precaution. Seismologists struck a reassuring tone yesterday but said it would be another 24 hours before they could rule out the possibility of further strong aftershocks. The head of Athens’s Geodynamic Institute, Gerasimos Papadopoulos, said that more strong aftershocks were likely but inhabited areas near the epicenter were unlikely to be affected. Most experts agreed that much of the seismic energy issued by the first quake was absorbed by the large aftershock that occured shortly after 2 p.m. As media speculation mounted about the possibility of another quake and residents appeared on television expressing their fears, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias asked citizens to pay attention only to announcements by official state-backed organizations. Earlier this month another quake, measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale, hit the same peninsula near the port of Patras.