Lefkada rides 6.4-Richter earthquake

50 injuries; houses, roads damaged

August 14, 2003


A three-story house in Lefkada was one of several that suffered extensive damage from Thursday’s earthquake. Most of the damaged houses were old, but this one had been built under strict regulations set after neighboring Cephalonia was flattened by an August 1953 quake.

Residents of the town of Lefkada yesterday celebrated the Dormition of the Virgin in the open rather than venture into the cathedral, as aftershocks from Thursday's strong earthquake continued to rattle the Ionian Sea island.

Dozens of mostly older buildings were damaged and windows smashed in the capital and especially in the western part of Lefkada, which was hit at 8.15 a.m. on Thursday by an earthquake in the Ionian seabed measuring around 6.4 on the Richter scale. Cracks opened in roads, although most of the problems arose from rockfalls, which blocked certain routes and isolated 250 people in the area of Pefkoulia, on the northwestern side of the island. A navy transport ship left yesterday to evacuate the people, the Navy General Staff announced.

Despite the severity of the quake, there were no fatalities. Twenty-two people were treated in hospitals, most for light injuries. About 50 injuries were reported overall.

Army units provided upward of 200 tents for people to sleep in, but some residents have already gone back to their homes. «They are now certain that there won't be another (major quake),» Spyros Kogas, deputy mayor of the town of Lefkada said yesterday.

«The island is regaining its composure and getting ready to heal its wounds... The great majority of visitors have left the island, not only for reasons of safety but fearing a blockage in some part of the road network,» Kogas added.

Experts said that the early hour of the earthquake prevented more injuries, because few people were on the island's beaches, where many rockfalls occurred.

Even more than the quake itself, it was the eerie coincidence of coming 50 years almost to the day after a devastating quake struck the nearby island of Cephalonia, which stirred memories among the island's older residents. On that occasion, there was a series of four major earthquakes, each stronger than the other, culminating on August 12, 1953, in a tremor that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale.

Seismologists said, however, that this earthquake came from a point 30 kilometers west of Lefkada and 19 kilometers deep, an epicenter different from that of the 1953 earthquakes. Still, the Ionian islands, and in particular the area around Cephalonia, Lefkada and Zakynthos are the most earthquake-prone area in an arc stretching from western Europe into China, Vassilis Papazachos, emeritus professor of seismology at the Thessaloniki University, said yesterday.

Thursday's quake and its magnitude once again stirred controversy among Greek seismologists, a group particularly prone to infighting.

The Athens and Thessaloniki universities agreed that the magnitude was 6.4 on the Richter scale, but Patras Seismological Laboratory recorded 5.9 Richter, prompting Papazachos to declare: «They don't know how to measure the magnitude of an earthquake correctly over in Patras.»

«I respect his age and contributions in the field and I'm not going to start a fight. I have 17 pieces of measuring equipment in the area and I know what I'm saying,» said Professor Akis Tselentis, head of the Patras laboratory.

The US Geological Survey measured the earthquake at 6.1 while the California Seismological Laboratory gave a 6.3 reading.

Quake protection

Every time an earthquake strikes in some part of Greece, everyone starts asking seismologists for predictions and our insatiable television channels seek out the most pessimistic and sinister forecasts in the belief that provoking terror among the public is a profitable business. The experts — in general, but not all of them all of the time — make it clear that they are not clairvoyants and that despite progress in recent decades, they cannot predict seismic activity. Seismology is a science that, perhaps more than any other, tries to draw conclusions by observing the phenomenon in the long term, and by collecting various statistical data. Insufficient time has passed to gather enough information and observations to lead to conclusive results. The lack of certainty makes scientists extremely reluctant to make any predictions that could cause upheaval among the residents of a town and do more damage than a quake itself.

So they have arrived at the only conclusion possible — as have all seismologists in every part of the world where earthquakes occur — that we have to learn to live with earthquakes. There are two aspects to this. The first is to educate the public systematically, beginning with pre-school children, to protect themselves calmly and effectively and for however long the duration of the earthquake may be.

The second and more important aspect is the proper anti-seismic construction of buildings and town planning regulations, where great progress has already been made in recent years. Even if they do not completely prevent damage, they have considerably limited the amount of destruction caused by quakes. In Japan, an area of major seismic activity, the positive results of anti-seismic construction has been truly impressive in recent years. The complete opposite has occurred in Turkey, where in every earthquake, poor construction results in hundreds, or even thousands, of victims and massive damage to property.

This is the message from Lefkada after the 6.4-Richter quake of last Thursday. Fifty years after the massive, destructive quake of 50 years ago in the Ionian islands, Lefkada’s newer buildings have withstood the quake this time.

The second message is that the right training of the population and organization on the part of the state results in rapid, coordinated and effective action.

At Least 50 Injured in Greece Earthquake

Thursday August 14, 2003 7:09 PM


Associated Press Writer

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - A powerful earthquake Thursday injured more than 50 people and turned a peak summer holiday into an exodus of frightened tourists from the Ionian Sea island of Lefkada.

Rescue officials said at least 50 people were treated for injuries that included broken limbs caused by falling rocks and roof tiles. Three others - a Scottish couple and a Czech - suffered serious head injuries in a landslide.

The damage included cracks at the main hospital, forcing an evacuation of patients to the nearby port of Preveza on the mainland. Landslides left some remote villages cut off, police said.

Authorities attributed the relatively light damage to strict anti-quake construction codes imposed in recent decades in one of the world's most quake-prone zones.

But signs of the quake's 6.4 magnitude - which was felt as far away as Athens and Italy - were scattered throughout the island: cracked roads, fallen lampposts, a collapsed wall in an empty church and a home tilting on its foundation. Other islands and mainland towns reported isolated damage.

The quake struck deep in the seabed 175 miles northwest of Athens. At least two strong aftershocks followed with preliminary magnitudes of 5.3, said the Athens Geodynamic Institute.

``There is damage to homes and businesses around the island, mostly to older buildings and it is not serious,'' said Greece's deputy interior minister, Lambros Papademos.

The only bridge linking the resort island with the western mainland was jammed with cars carrying Greek and panicked foreign tourists Nearly every Greek vacation spot is packed for the high point of the country's traditional summer break: the Aug. 15 religious festivities for the feast day of the Virgin Mary. Lefkada merchants and hotel owners watched helplessly as thousands of visitors headed away after the quake.

``It mostly scared tourists, who have not felt such intense things. We have lived through many earthquakes,'' said Ilias Georgakis, a resident of Lefkada.

The quake hit as the Ionian islands held memorials for the 50-year anniversary of a series of devastating quakes that killed 476 people and flattened the island of Cephalonia, just south of Lefkada.

Panayiotis Fourlas, the chief of Greece's firefighting forces, said fire and rescue squads were posted throughout the island ``in case we have to deal with any new problems.''

The Civil Defense Agency sent about 180 tents for residents too frightened to return home.

The deadliest quake in Greece in recent years was a 5.9-magnitude that struck Athens in September 1999, killing 143 people and leaving thousands homeless.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

EARTHQUAKE on 17/10/2003 at 12:57 (UTC)




Latitude = 36.51 N

Longitude = 22.73 E

Origin Time = 12:57:11.2 (UTC)

Depth = 60 Km

RMS = 0.88 sec

Gap = 150 degrees

95% confidence ellipse: - Semi major = 16.0 Km

- Semi minor = 6.3 Km

- Azimuth of major axis = 49 degrees

Number of data used = 82

Preliminary location computed on Fri Oct 17 13:42:03 2003 (UTC)

Done by Jean-Denis MULLER

Comments : Message number: 214

All magnitudes estimations :

ML5.1 (GFZ) ML5.6 (INGV) ML5.2 (INGV) mb4.9 (LDG)

mb5.5 (LED) mb5.4 (NEIC) mb4.9 (ODC)

P.S.: For additional information, please contact EMSC at:

- Email: mazet@emsc-csem.org

- Web : http://www.emsc-csem.org

- Fax : 33 1 69 26 70 00

9/25/2003 - ALERT: mb 8.2 HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, REGION 25/09/2003 19:50 (UTC)


8-17-03 - CHINA QUAKES - 5.9 - DOWNS OVER 7,900 HOUSES

7-26-03 - JAPAN QUAKES - 5.0, 6.2, 7.0 + 400 AFTERSHOCKS


5-26-03 - JAPAN - 7.0

5-26-03 - INDONESIA 7+

5-21-03 - ALGERIA QUAKE - 6.7