The risk of a tsunami in the Mediterranean is lower than in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but it is a real possibility, the Department of Geological Survey said Wednesday, on the occasion of the World Tsunami Awareness Day.
Tsunamis would occur in European waters due to earthquakes caused by the African Plate drifting northwards underneath the Eurasian Plate.
The Mediterranean Sea can be considered vulnerable to tsunamis not only because the area is seismically active, but also because coastal ports are very close to high-risk tsunami epicentres.
According to the director of the Oceanography Centre of Cyprus, Giorgos Georgiou, an earthquake in the Mediterranean could trigger a tsunami that could reach Cyprus within an hour, giving very little time to evacuate and shut down industrial buildings such as power plants and chemical factories.
The island’s coastlines were hit by tsunamis in 1202, 1222, 1303 and 1953. The one in 1953 occurred after a destructive double earthquake, which killed 40 people in Paphos. It generated a small wave of around 1 metre.
There are currently four certified tsunami warning and information centres in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean region, located in Italy, France, Turkey and Greece.
In the event of a tsunami being detected by these centres, automatic warnings are sent to the member states within the system.
These alerts are received by civil defence bodies, which activate national disaster response plans.
The Department of Geological Survey provides real time information to the warning centres in Greece and Italy and to Cyprus’ Civil Defence.
The largest tsunami wave recorded in the Mediterranean was in 1956 after an earthquake took place in the Greek island of Amorgos, in the Aegean Sea.
The earthquake triggered a major tsunami with a maximum run-up of 30m. The combined effects of the earthquake and the tsunami caused the deaths of 53 people with a further 100 injured.