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Western Greek quakes ring scientists' alarm bells

Written by: Staff

Athens, Apr 14: Scientists warned residents of western Greece and the Ionian islands to stay away from beaches and cliffs after a series of strong earthquakes rattled the region ahead of the busy summer tourist season.

Several earthquakes, with magnitudes of 5.7 to 5.9, have shaken western Greece in the past 72 hours, but no damage or injuries have been reported.

All schools have shut, while dozens of people have been sleeping in parks and cars in fear of stronger earthquakes.

University of Patras seismologist Akis Tselentis said people should avoid beaches and rocky coastlines because of the danger of falling rocks.

''We have to closely monitor this phenomenon and I urge people to stay away from old houses, beaches and cliffs,'' he told state television.

Zakynthos and other Ionian islands on the western coastline are popular summer tourist spots for thousands of foreigners, including mainly Britons and Italians who own homes there.

Greece has seen dozens of medium-strength quakes in the past year.

Seismologists could not determine whether this week's tremors were the main ones or if stronger quakes would follow in an area, which is among the most seismically active in Europe.

''It is impossible to say whether these earthquakes have now released all the energy hidden under the plates,'' Thessaloniki University seismologist Manolis Skordilis said.

''We cannot rule out anything because we do not have enough data.'' In 2003, an earthquake hit Lefkada beaches, injuring dozens of foreign tourists and locals and causing widespread panic, which affected the island's tourism industry.


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