Expatriates living in retirement in the sunny climate of the Mediterranean region may be wondering if the devastation in Japan could happen to them. Not only have tsunamis hit the Mediterranean in the past, there may be more to come.
The first known tsunami in the Mediterranean occurred in the Syrian region around 2000BC, while the first tsunami in Greece destroyed the Persian fleet in Potidea, Chalkidiki, in 479BC. There was also a large tsunami that hit Alexandria in 365AD, killing approximately 50,000 people.
Shorter distances in the Mediterranean mean that tsunamis hit the coasts faster despite travelling at lower speeds because the sea is not as deep as those in the Pacific Ocean.
The last large tsunami that struck in the Aegean Sea was created by the Santorini earthquake of 1956. The tsunami wave that hit the east side of Amorgos was approximately 25-metres high. The most recent tsunami followed the Turkey earthquake of 1999 with the seismic wave affecting the coastal areas of the Marmara region.
The zone extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran and India is the second most seismic zone on the planet, which records some 15 per cent of the earthquake activity worldwide.
According to seismologists there it is highly likely that strong earthquakes will hit the Mediterranean region sometime in the future. Informing and preparing the public is imperative. Those living in coastal areas should head inland the minute an earthquake strikes. Although nothing on the scale of the recent tsunami in Japan and the one in Southeast Asia in 2004 has occurred in the Mediterranean in recent decades, putting tsunami warning systems in place would be helpful to everyone living in the region.