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Greek disaster risk

April 20, 2012

Greece should add northwestern regions to its list of areas at risk of tsunamis and earthquakes, according to German scientists. The experts used an account of fifth-century B.C. historian Herodotus in their research.

Nea Potidea beach
Image: picture alliance/Rainer Hackenberg

Scientists from the RWTH Aachen University have warned that northwestern coastal regions of Greece remain prone to earthquakes and tsunamis and should be added to the list of areas at risk.

"We have found several historic tsunamis on the coast," Professor Klaus Reicherter told the DPA news agency. "That means there is a certain risk for the coastal areas."

He and his colleagues found sediment on the northern Greek peninsula where Potidaea, and its modern counterpart, Nea Potidaea, is located. They showed signs of massive marine events, such as large waves.

Help from HerodotusExcavations in the suburbs of the nearby ancient city of Mende uncovered a high-energy level dating back to the fifth century B.C. that contained far older sea shells that were likely picked up off the ocean floor and deposited during a tsunami.

Sculpture of Herodotus' head
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus lent a hand to modern-day researchersImage: picture-alliance/ANE Edition

An account dating back to 479 B.C. by Greek scholar Herodotus triggered the scientists' research. He described "mighty waves" that killed hundreds of Persian invaders that year, in what was then Potidaea.

Over the last four years, the researchers sought out lagoons to look for sediment like marine sands or gravel that are typical for an area affected by a tsunami.

They also found evidence of massive blocks of rock formations "where you do have to ask yourself, how did they get out of the ocean," Reicherter said.

The areas in question on the northwestern coast include popular tourist destinations. In the busy summer months, there may well be the risk of deaths, the Aachen scientists said.

So far, experts have only identified the southern coast as an area at risk of tsunamis.

The findings were presented at the annual conference of the Seismological Society of America in San Diego, California.

ng/sms (dpa, AFP)