Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

6.5 Earthquake in Greece…ho hum

News channels in Greece all put up lengthy special reports about the earthquake as if it’s a big tragedy, even describing it as a “catastrophe.” Please, let’s put things in perspective.

Earthquakes in Greece have become commonplace and pose no real threat unless panic ensues, your home is ancient and poorly built, or a factory is built on a landfill (Ricomex was a terrible and needless loss). The only characteristic I can point to is this one rolled (S-wave) and was of some length.

It may be helpful to click, “How Quakes Happen” by the BBC. Why? Because knowledge is power. If you look at the frame with the tectonic plates, you’ll notice that Greece is indeed outlined by a plate and therefore vulnerable to regular Earth movement.

For everyone traveling or living in Greece, please review earthquake safety with this quick and educational Earthquake Quiz that covers safety for different situations and “Earthquakes and Epiphany,” which details some handy guidelines. I especially recommend them to anyone who thinks running outside is a good idea. There is absolutely no reason to be frightened or worried if you understand what to do.

People who die are those that panic and run from their homes, which is the absolute wrong thing to do. In “Greece: Earthquake rattles Rhodes” (Xinhua; now removed), two people died after being struck on the head while running; they would have lived by staying put and doing the ‘duck and cover.’ Most quakes are small and do not cause injuries, as confirmed in “Quake hits western Greece.”

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Two earthquakes in 20+ minutes


  dubaibilly wrote @ June 8th, 2008 at 17:47

This is why I like your blog. It’s informative without being sensationalist. Good post, Kat.

  FMS wrote @ June 9th, 2008 at 00:14

Yes, I really dislike the way in which the tv channels reported this. Of course, we do want to know what happened and if people were killed or injured, but the whole thing was so hysterical and pointless. Thanks for your own calm post!

  photene wrote @ June 9th, 2008 at 00:45

Hi Kat, I’m sooooo glad you’re back – I missed you while you were away.

  MIG wrote @ June 9th, 2008 at 15:02

OK guys, you may say whatever you want about the news coverage of that earthquake but if you didn’t live what we, the people of west Peloponnisos lived yesterday you can’t be objective…I have experienced many earthquakes in the past but this was like the end of the world…During the earthquake I was constantly saying: “Now all the buildings will collapse”…We were extremely lucky…No doubt if this would happen in another part of the world -Turkey, China, Iran- the dead would be count in many many thousands…

  Cωνσtantίnoς wrote @ June 9th, 2008 at 15:08

Hej Kat,
An earthquake in Greece. surprise! surprise!
I’m glad not to be exposed to Greek media on occasions like this, at least only selectively on the web. I can imagine the drama, the “pain” and all the “enriched” news reports. Turn the TV off, that’s the way to go (at least for me 😛 ). Keep the blog up & running!

  rositta wrote @ June 9th, 2008 at 17:35

They are showing it on the 24 hour news channels with a continuous 15 minute loop. Considering the difference between this earthquake and what happened in China and Burma I find it a bit much…ciao

  Kat wrote @ June 9th, 2008 at 18:36

DB – Why thank you 🙂

M – That’s true. I do want to know what’s going on, but in a non-hysterical, non-sensationalist report that lasts some minutes, not 3 hours that fuses into the nightly news of which lasts another 2 hours.

P – It’s nice to be missed, thank you! 🙂

MIG – Well, you’re talking to the wrong person about being objective because that’s exactly what I am — I’ve been in 9/11, a hurricane, a tornado, a flood. I’m also from California where a single perioxi can have nearly the same number of people as the total population of Greece, we have earthquakes of great magnitude much more often, and not one person dies or is injured. Why? Because we all understand what to do in an earthquake and our buildings are to code. The only time someone dies or gets injured is when there is structural failure, such as a bridge.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have sympathy for people, but it only goes so far. People must be accountable if they panicked and contributed to their own injuries/death OR didn’t properly build their homes, thereby inviting trouble. A lot of the damaged or destroyed homes were slapdash and without insurance, and some illegal, which in my opinion shouldn’t be eligible for aid that Karamanlis announced would be dispersed. “The end of the world???” That doesn’t sound like an unexaggerated, objective statement either.

C – Nice to see you here again! Thankfully the Federer vs. Nadal match wasn’t interrupted, but after it was over, turning off the TV is exactly what I did. I’m still a bit nervous about switching domains and certainly appreciate your encouragement 🙂

R – That’s a good point. A total of 5 million people were left homeless and 69,000 dead in the China earthquake. I realize the population there is 1.3 billion, but one needs to put things in perspective when speaking of tragedy, pain and catastrophe when describing this minor earthquake in Greece.

  The Scorpion wrote @ June 10th, 2008 at 08:28

For me, it was humorous hearing the locals in Kato Achaia saying it was a bigger earthquakes as much as 7.5. Sadly, they haven’t a clue that a 6.5 in Greece is like a hiccup in California or other places where buildings are constructed properly.

  MIG wrote @ June 10th, 2008 at 15:50

OK, dear Scorpion let me inform you that only half a dozen buildings were damaged in the city of Patras…The buildings in the villages that collapsed were -at least most of them- built more than half a century ago…The buildings here -in Banania as I imagine you view Greece- are also constructed PROPERLY… We all see what is happening right now in the Midwest States…Whole houses are drifted by the torrents… Not to mention NEW ORLEANS…

  MIG wrote @ June 10th, 2008 at 18:00

The hurricanes and the earthquakes is not the point -even though that particular earthquake was the second or third strongest that have ever been recorded in that area…The problem in my opinion is the attitude some commentators have for what is happening in this country…
Now for the earthquake and it’s consequences I’m too very impressed that the catastrophes were minor…Let me remember you that in the 1999 Athens earthquake the magnitude scored was 5.9 and 143 people lost their lives and more than 2,000 were treated for injuries in what eventually became Greece’s deadliest natural disaster in almost half a century…

  Kat wrote @ June 10th, 2008 at 18:40

As I said, the only houses I saw that were damaged or collapsed were ancient and constructed improperly, as you now confirm…although you described this as the “end of the world” just yesterday. It has nothing to do with Banania, since no one here ever said that all buildings fall under this category; in fact the majority in Greece are safe. You’re getting mighty worked up about nothing.

The third strongest hurricane in U.S. history that ripped through New Orleans, lasted a week and killed nearly 1900 people cannot be compared to a minor 6.5 earthquake lasting seconds and killed 2. It’s ridiculous to even try.

In regards to the Midwest, not only are they setting new records in flooding, but water is an awesome force from which there is no escape (try escaping from a submerged car in still water, never mind a flash current) and is not drained in a matter of seconds, which is how long an earthquake lasts. It’s obvious you’ve never been in a flood or hurricane as I have, and your comment reflects that.

I recommend at least reading up on natural disasters, even if you never experience them first hand.
You’re the one who brought up hurricanes and the Midwest, so if that wasn’t your point, why bring it up? Most of the 143 people who died in the 1999 earthquake were in the Ricomex factory built on a landfill, so again that’s not an accurate reflection of devastation. That’s Banania, to quote your word…and a needless tragedy (to quote mine). “Deadliest” in a half century of Greek history is exaggerated if humans contributed to a tragedy that was entirely preventable, which the factory was. That’s why their relatives won a lawsuit.

Most of the 2000 injured were those that panicked and hadn’t a clue about what to do in an earthquake (aka, running outside), as I already mentioned. I provided tools for everyone to educate themselves. If they don’t, their ignorance will continue to invite injury. Ignorance in itself is a tragedy, but not in the natural disaster sense.

Just because someone doesn’t cry, overreact and go hysterical like many others in Greece, it doesn’t mean they have attitude. In fact, calm people are often survivors who help others and go on to give money to recovery. Besides that, everyone is entitled to have whatever opinion they wish based on their experience (of which many have much more than you in the world of disaster) and I see nothing wrong with it. Your comments have a touch of hysterics and attitude as well and were published, so I don’t see the problem. You’re trying to win an argument you cannot win and, in the process, are looking more foolish with each comment.

  Tauros wrote @ June 10th, 2008 at 20:23

Hi Kat!

One thing not mentioned (at least I didn’t find it) is some very basic preparations one should make for an earthquake when they live in a location like GR. There are long lists of things that one can do, but the two most important in my mind are: 1) THINK about everything you hang/affix to your walls/ceiling and ask yourself if its secure enough to stand the severe shaking of an earthquake. Especially important for things that could fall on beds, like large pictures, icons, book shelves, etc. 2) Keep a good supply of potable water on hand. Think a number of days. The right earthquake in the right place may cause very few injuries, yet result in broken/contaminated water mains, or loss of power for pumping among other things. (Good use for those 2-liter soda bottles.) Good points about what to do during a quake, though interesting that the linked quiz says to stay in bed vice trying to duck and cover. What the difference means to me is simply a re-emphasis of my main point above – think ahead! The correct answer is actually going to be situation-dependant, based on what and where things are in that bedroom. Knowing in advance, and not trying to figure it out while half-asleep in a shaking building is the key. Anyway, superb blog; my congrats and admiration for what you have done and do with it.

  Kat wrote @ June 10th, 2008 at 20:37

Hi T – Hooray, someone contributing to the discussion! 🙂

That’s so true. It’s very situation-dependent. For example, one might stay in bed if their bed is on the floor or they cannot get under it. Even getting beside it for the “triangle of life” that I describe in “Earthquakes and Epiphany” is better than nothing if there’s a light above your head and you can’t stay in bed like the quiz mentions. I do mention looking at what can fall on you (bookshelves and lights) and staying away from glass. I also say in the 5th paragraph of that post that we kept an emergency kit, flashlight and rations (water and canned food) in a place we could get to it in case our home is devastated.

It’s often times very difficult to get people to think before knee jerking, never mind planning ahead (in fact, people laugh at me when I mention it). i.e. My fiance runs around the house, while I immediately respond the way I’ve been trained my whole life for earthquakes. It takes some thought, as you said, and some breaking of bad habits in others.

Many thanks for seeking an avenue to leave your comment! 🙂

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