Central Europe’s Nastiest Natural Disaster: Earthquakes

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Central Europe is no stranger to natural disasters. However, the most dramatic and headline-grabbing of them is the frequent earthquakes that occur in the region. Greece, Albania, North Macedonia, and even areas as far-flung as Kosovo and Montenegro are often subjected to earthquakes of high magnitudes.

Those earthquakes are a product of the North Anatolian Fault Zone, the fault zone responsible for the stunning peaks of Central Europe. Those spectacular peaks come with a cost, though: seismic activity. The infamous Mount Vesuvius sits directly above the North Anatolian Fault Zone, and the 79 AD eruption that wiped out Pompei was due to the activity of the fault.

Aegean Sea Plate Brings Frequent Quakes to Central Europe

Central Europe is a lot of things. Stunningly beautiful, steeped in deep history, and full of delectable Mediterranean food. It’s also one of the most seismologically active areas in Eurasia, making it important that people in the region are prepared for earthquakes. The Aegean Sea Plate, near the Southern border of Greece, is moving to the southwest at a speed of about 30 millimeters per year. That might not sound fast, but on a geological scale, it’s practically flying.

Meanwhile, the African plate is subducting under the Aegean Sea plate at a rate of roughly 40 millimeters per year. This subduction means that the plate is slowly burrowing under the Aegean plate, making the North Anatolian Fault Zone a complex nexus of seismic activity.

Some of the region’s strongest earthquakes on record are due to the Hellenic Arc to the South of the country. Notably, the area has never had an earthquake recorded over 7.2 magnitude by scientific instruments. However, some ancient earthquakes recorded in historical records could have been greater than that in magnitude.

Historical Record

In 426 BC, a probably 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Skarfeia region near the Euboic Gulf. This notable earthquake is of historical record because the historian Thucydides was the first person to link an earthquake in one part of the world with a tsunami in another. Thucydides determined the Malian Gulf tsunami during the same year to have been caused by the Skarfeia earthquake.

Numerous other earthquakes from history have caused countless deaths and destruction of historic buildings in the region. Many religious sites from the Ancient Greek culture are thought to have been destroyed by such earthquakes, a reality that anthropologists resent.