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Magnitude of Crete Earthquake Stuns Greek Seismologists

Crete earthquake
One person was killed from the powerful earthquake that hit the Greek island Crete on Monday. Credit: AMNA

Greek seismologists stated on Monday that they had been were expecting an earthquake on Crete, but were stunned by its magnitude, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, which left houses ruined, rocks lying on roads and one person dead earlier in the morning.

The Seismic Danger Estimate committee had been expecting seismic activity on the island since July, but their estimate was that it would not rise beyond 5.4 on the Richter scale, the scientists noted.

Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization (OASP) president Efthimios Lekkas said that this particular quake was “unexpected, and came out of nowhere.” Commenting on the size of the seismic activity, Lekkas said that “it was almost irrational — the event was much larger in scale than we anticipated.”

The seismic fault responsible for the earthquake near Arkalochori in Heraklion, Crete, had been heretofore totally unknown, said professor of Seismology and Geophysics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Constantinos Papazahos. “The specific fault in the Heraklion basin, which certainly gave rise to earthquakes hundreds of years ago, was not known or mapped, and has not been studied,” he stated.

“However, there are many faults in Greece that we know very little about and which give rise to quakes that surprise us as they have not been studied enough,” Papazahos added. He said that, according to his estimate, the earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter scale on Monday morning was probably the main temblor.

Crete earthquake leaves one victim

The only victim of the earthquake so far is 65-year-old Iakovos Tzagarakis, a builder working on a church restoration, in the village of Martha, his hometown. He was inside the small church, the restoration of which he had taken on, when the tremor struck. He was overcome by the debris. His son had been waiting for him outside the church.

There has been significant damage to the water supply system and buildings, in the wider administrative district of Archanes Asterousia on the island of Crete, Archanes Mayor Manolis Kokosalis reported.

Schools have been evacuated, while an inspection has already begun on the condition of the school buildings. All the authorities are on alert, focusing on the area of Arkalochori where there has been significant damage and churches have collapsed.

The quake’s epicenter was located 23 km northwest of Arvi and its focal depth was 10 km, the Geodynamics Institute of National Observatory of Athens said. A series of afteshocks continue to shake the island.

Seismologists will be on alert in the next days and will monitor the deadly phenomenon, professor of seismology Manolis Skordylis said. “Nobody can be absolutely certain but it is very probable that this was the main earthquake. We should wait for a couple of days,” he stated.

“Crete experiences strong quakes but the issue is the location of the epicenter. There are some areas that have major faults causing huge quakes and some others which are home to smaller faults that may give rise to tremors of medium intensity.”

The post-seismic activity in the area around the capital, Heraklion, has been immense, with over 25 aftershocks, the strongest of which had a magnitude of 4.8 on the Richter scale, occurring shortly after 2 PM Monday. The epicenter of that tremor was 22 kilometers southwest of Heraklion and it took place at a focal depth of 12.6 kilometers, according to the Athens Institute of Geodynamics.

Major earthquake warning by Greek seismologist

The Institute’s director, Akis Tselentis, had posted a major earthquake warning on his Facebook page last Thursday. It was based on a tremor measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale, which occurred around the Arkalochori area, where Monday’s earthquake took place.

Tselentis had advised citizens in the area to strictly follow the seismic protection measures and avoid going near old structures made of stone.

The tremor came without further warning, in an area which has experienced seismic activities for months, says seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos. He expressed his concern about the fact that the epicenter was in populated areas, adding that most earthquakes in Crete happen under the sea. “This was under land, which makes it all the more dangerous,” he added.

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