Earthquakes in Cyprus Inevitable

Prof. Cavit Atalar
[Professor Cavit Atalar]
Sunday, 19 February 2023

Cyprus is a land of earthquakes. We need to build earthquake resistant structures. We must learn to live with the earthquake, if the buildings are durable, we don’t have to be afraid“, the Chairman of the Presidential Earthquake Committee Professor Cavit Atalar* said, Yeniduzen reports.

Dr Atalar, who is a Geology Engineer, pointed out the importance of building earthquake-resistant buildings on suitable ground. Atalar said that it is not possible to know when and how severe an earthquake will occur, and this requires being ready for an earthquake all the time. 

Atalar, who holds a professorship in soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering, told TAK news agency that houses built before the  Earthquake Regulation was in effect should be inspected for earthquake resistance.

He said that Cyprus is a land of earthquakes and that up to 2022, 15 major earthquakes had occurred, five of which were damaging.

Atalar said that in 1953, there were two earthquakes in Paphos and after 8 seconds, 11 villages were completely ruined, and people died.

Turkey Fault Lines - Map
[Eurasian Fault Lines]
Stating that Cyprus is located at the intersection of the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate, Atalar emphasised that it is important to act as if an earthquake could occur at any moment.

Referring to the five most destructive earthquakes in Cyprus which occurred between 1896-2021, Atalar said that in 1941, in Famagusta, there was an earthquake of 5.9 magnitude, killing 15 people and destroying many homes.

In Paphos in 1953, two earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.0 and 6.5 occurred, killing  63 people, injuring 200 and leaving 4,000 people homeless.

Atalar went on to say that in 1995, two people died and 20 were injured following an earthquake measuring 5.8, which also occurred in Paphos.

Atalar noted that in 1995, two people died and 20 people were injured in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that also took place in Paphos.

He said that in 1996, in the southwest of the island, there was an earthquake measuring 6.8, which damaged houses in Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia. 

Noting that there were between 518 and 530 earthquakes in Cyprus until 2022, Atalar stated that 178 of them were greater than magnitude 2, 38 greater than magnitude 3, 10 of magnitude 4, 2 of magnitude 5 and 1 greater than magnitude 6. 

Solid Ground

Atalar stated that the design of the buildings according to the soil characteristics and earthquake-resistance plays an important role in preventing damage.

He pointed out that building on soft ground, in particular, carried risks. During the last earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, buildings constructed on soft ground were destroyed, Atalar said. 

Atalar said that Tuzla, Long Beach, Gaziveren, Soli Harbour and the places where the streams reach the sea in Cyprus have soft ground, as do Kanlıdere, Çakıllıdere and the Maraş region. 

Buildings Must be Inspected

The head of the Earthquake Committee, which was formed one year ago said that it would keep the public informed. Atalar said that the committee consulted with experts from Turkey and other countries. 

Atalar said that there had been many enquiries from residents of social housing. He stressed that buildings constructed prior to 1975, before the Earthquake Regulation came into force, should be inspected for earthquake resistance and reinforced if necessary.

He also emphasised the importance of local municipalities playing their part in prevention.

*Professor Atalar is President of the Presidency Earthquake Committee, Head of NEU Earthquake and Soil Research and Evaluation Centre, and Head of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering Department.


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