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Historical Records and Instrumental Recordings of Earthquakes

 

Historical references and recent archaeological findings reveal that Cyprus was struck by strong earthquakes in the past, which on several occasions destroyed its towns and dwellings. Salamis, Kition, Amathus, Kourion, (PhotoS1) Pafos and Nicosia as well as several villages suffered damage at different time periods.

 

Historical data indicate that 16 destructive earthquakes with intensities of at least VIII on the modified Mercalli scale occurred between 26 BC and 1900 AD.  Pafos was levelled in 15 BC while in 76 AD the town was destroyed along with Salamis and Kition. The latter earthquake is considered to be the strongest that ever hit Cyprus. Salamis and Pafos were destroyed again in 332 AD and 342 AD.

 

The historical data have many inaccuracies and gaps and for some time periods there is complete lack of information. Additionally, several events appear to have been exaggerated by the historians and chroniclers who described them. More accurate data have been collected, regarding the earthquakes occurring in Cyprus and the surrounding offshore area since 1896, when seismological stations started operating in neighbouring countries. The situation regarding the accuracy and completeness of the earthquake recordings improved considerably after 1984, with the establishment of a seismological station in Cyprus and its continual expansion and upgrading. A better picture of the seismicity of the Cyprus region started developing and the areas with higher seismic activity were more clearly recognised. In the time period 1896-2004, more than 400 earthquakes with their epicentres on Cyprus and the surrounding region were felt in several areas of Cyprus. Of these the following 14 earthquakes caused damage and in some of them there were many victims.

 

Table of Catastrophic and Damaging Earthquakes on Cyprus 1896-2000 (Figure S6)

Date

Magnitude

      Ms

Description of damage

29/6/1896

6.5

Damage in the area of Limassol, especially at Akrotiri and Episkopi.  Many aftershocks followed.

5/1/1900

5.7

Small damage in Mesaoria.

23/2/1906

5.3

Small damage in Limassol and Kolossi. Felt all over the island.

18/2/1924

6.0

Small damage in Famagusta.

13/12/1927

5.0

Small damage in Limassol and in villages to the north (Koilani, Pera Pedi, Monagri).

9/5/1930

5.4

Damage in Pafos town and the surrounding area.

26/6/1937

4.7

Damage in southwest Cyprus (Pachna, Omodos, Platres, Salamiou).

20/1/1941

5.9

Severe damage in the district of Famagusta, especially at Paralimni, where 24 people were injured and many houses collapsed. Limited damage in the districts of Nicosia, Larnaca and Kyrenia.

10/9/1953

6.1

Destructive earthquake in the district of Pafos with 63 dead, 200 injured and 4000 homeless. Many houses were destroyed in 158 villages. The main earthquake was followed by many aftershocks, which caused additional damage.

15/1/1961

5.7

Small damage in Larnaca town and the surrounding area.

28/3/1984

4.5

Small damage in the town and district of Larnaca where it was particularly felt.

23/2/1995

5.7

Destructive earthquake in the Pafos district with two dead. Many houses collapsed in the villages of Pano Arodes and Miliou. There was also damage in the villages of Peristerona, Steni, Gialia, Argaka, Pomos, Pyrgos, Lefka, Neo Chorio, Lachi and Polis.

9/10/1996

6.5

Very strong earthquake in the southwest of Cyprus caused panic to the residents of Pafos and Limassol and to the residents of multi-storey buildings in Nicosia, Larnaca and Paralimni. Twenty people were slightly injured and two lost their lives from indirect causes. Limited damage in Pafos and Limassol.

11/8/1999

5.6

Strong earthquake with the epicentre close to Gerasa caused damage to buildings in Limassol and the villages to the north of the town. Felt all over Cyprus. Forty people were slightly injured mainly because of panic. Many aftershocks followed.

 

The most catastrophic earthquakes were those of 1941, 1953, 1995, 1996, and 1999.

 

The study of the historical and recent earthquake recordings shows that the distribution in time of the seismic activity is not regular, but there are periods of intense activity followed by periods of quiescence. Thus, while 28 earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 4.5 were recorded in the period 1918-1937, in the Cyprus region (33.5°-37.0° N, 31.0°-35.5° E), only 11 were recorded in 1960-1990. In the years 1995-1999 there was an increase in seismic activity with strong to very strong earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.6-6.5.

 

The statistical analysis of the historical data gives a theoretical return period of one catastrophic earthquake every 120 years, while a similar analysis of instrumental recordings of the last 100 years gives the results presented in the table below.

 

Magnitude

(Ms)

Return period

(years)

No. of earthquakes

in 100 years

4.6-5.0

8

12.5

5.1-5.5

26

3.8

5.6-6.0

36

2.8

6.1-6.5

75

1.3

6.6-7.0

166

0.6

 

 

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