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Catastrophic earthquake likely in the Middle East

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User ID: 229752
07/28/2007 03:58 AM
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Catastrophic earthquake likely in the Middle East

Washington, July 27: Lebanese geologists from the National Centre for Geophysical Research in Beirut have found in an underwater geophysical survey that the fault responsible for the AD 551 massive earthquake that devastated the coast of Phoenicia moves every 1500 years.

In other words, a disaster in the region is due any day now.

"It is just a matter of time before a destructive tsunami hits this region again," said Iain Stewart, an earthquake expert at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom not involved in the underwater survey.

As part of their survey, Ata Elias and colleagues bounced radio waves off the seafloor and studied the reflection patterns, building a three-dimensional map showing all the lumps and bumps on the seafloor.

They discovered a distinctive stepped ridge-the shape made by a "thrust" fault when one of Earth's tectonic plates shoves its way underneath another, running parallel to the Middle Eastern coast.

Surveying this region is difficult because some of the continental shelf drops off very quickly, reaching water depths of around 4,921 feet (1,500 meters) only five miles (eight kilometres) from the shore.

"We inferred that this thrust fault is the source of major earthquakes," Elias said, adding that the team was able to trace this fault along the coast for more than 62 miles.

Back on land the team found additional evidence to link this fault to the A.D. 551 earthquake.

A "staircase" of platforms rising from present-day sea level showed how the land had moved upwards each time the thrust fault moved.

When the thrust fault ruptured it uplifted the coastline by around three feet (one meter). When the platforms were at sea level they were colonized by mollusks. But as soon as they were thrust out of the water by the earthquake the mollusks died.

By dating the mollusk shells on the raised platforms, Elias and his colleagues determined when the thrust fault moved.

By studying the length of the thrust fault and the amount of uplift of the platforms, Elias and his colleagues were further able to estimate that the AD 551 earthquake must have had a magnitude of about 7.5 on the Moment magnitude scale, a more modern form of measurement than the Richter scale.

When the fault ruptured in A.D. 551, part of the seafloor block collapsed by around 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 meters). This vertical drop in the water triggered a surging tsunami, which gained height rapidly as it pushed toward land.

Archaeological and historical evidence of the A.D. 551 earthquake indicate that it was a truly catastrophic event. All the major coastal cities between Tripoli and Tyr suffered heavy damage, with Tripoli reported to have "drowned."

Historical records also describe "the complete ruin of Berytus (Beirut), Jewel of Phoenicia, and the sea retreating one to two Roman miles, or 4,921 to 9,842 feet (1500 to 3000 meters) from shore, enough to ground mooring ships and uncover sunken ones. More than 30,000 people died in Beirut alone.

"If this earthquake and tsunami were repeated today, it would be a disaster of enormous proportions," said Sanford Holst, an author and expert on ancient Phoenicia.

The findings are published in the August issue of the journal Geology, reports National Geographic.

[link to www.dailyindia.com]
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07/28/2007 10:14 AM
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Re: Catastrophic earthquake likely in the Middle East

Don't have anything to add here. Just wanted to thank you, theresident, for quietly and consistently bringing us high-quality and informative posts. hf