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Moving moments in the Greek Islands

- by Archimedes

Of the thousands of holidaymakers who fly out to the Greek Islands each year only a few will realise they are heading into one of the world's most earthquake prone regions. Regular visitors will know that Greek island earthquakes are relatively common; fortunately the great majority of Greek earthquakes are also relatively tame.

Most of the Greek islands sit in a box of fault lines pocked with lively volcanoes, including the Nisyros island volcano, thought by some experts to be overdue for a major eruption.

Following recent events in Japan, no one is taking any chances. An international exercise to test the response to a natural disaster, such as a major earthquake or tsunami, is  planned for later in 2011 on the Greek holiday island of Crete.

It was Crete that was thought to have suffered one of the world's biggest catastrophes in the Bronze Age when an enormous explosion blew up the island of Santorini and the following tsunami is thought to have virtually destroyed the Minoan civilisation centred on the north coast of Crete.

However, despite several  major incidents in nearby Turkey, the Greek Islands, although prone to tremors, have not suffered a severe earthquake for more than 50 years. The earthquake of 1953 caused deaths and severe damage on the Greek islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia.

More recently the Athens earthquake of 1999 struck in the suburbs where more than 100 buildings collapsed, killing over 100 people. And an earthquake of 6.2 struck Crete as recently as April 2011, rattling buildings as far away as Cairo.

The Institute of Geodynamics in Greece lists recent earthquake data on its website in both Greek and  English, showing the epicenter, intensity and other information about every Greek tremor.