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Egypt trembled
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 07 - 04 - 2011

A strong earthquake that rocked Crete was felt in Egypt, Reem Leila reports
A powerful earthquake registering 5.8 on the Richter Scale struck the cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum, Beni Sweif, and Minya on 1 April at 3.29pm. The quake's epicentre was the southern coast of the Greek island of Crete whose buildings rattled.
The quake's magnitude ranged from 5.9 to 6.3 which is considered strong.
No damage was reported in the cities. According to Hatem Ouda, head of National Research Institute for Astronomy and Geophysics (NRIAG), the earthquake in the eastern section of the region known as the Aegean Arc was strong. "Greece is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, but among the thousands of quakes recorded each year they rarely cause severe damage or fatalities," said Ouda. This is a very systematic active area that has seen powerful quakes in the past but none has seriously affected Egypt. "NRIAG is monitoring the post-earthquake activity, which so far is not intense," Ouda said.
Ouda said there were three aftershocks: 3.9 and 3.5 while the third was too weak to be measured, "but we knew about it from the Greek Geological Institute."
The centre of the quake was 715 kilometres away from Egypt and at a depth of 77 kilometres, making its impact on the country relatively slight.
Egypt is on only two quake belts. One, the African Horn in the Aqaba Gulf, is a low-activity belt 390 kilometres away from Cairo. The other is the Helini Belt in the west Mediterranean which affects Egypt's northern coast. It is more than 700 kilometres away from Cairo and has almost no effect on Upper Egypt. "Most Egyptian territories are thus safe," confirmed Ouda.
At the same time, Ouda said the Crete earthquake was not connected to the Japan quake on 11 March and which was followed by a tsunami and at least 50 aftershocks. Accordingly, none of Japan's earthquakes affected Egypt because their belt lies in a different strap. Japan's quake epicentre is in the Pacific Ocean which is distant from the belts in which Egypt is affected.
According to geophysics experts, nobody can predict when an earthquake will strike. Raafat El-Shafei, head of National Earthquake Network in Aswan added that science cannot specify where, when and how strong a quake will be.
At the same time, El-Shafei confirmed that the tremble was weak and did not affect the High Dam.
According to NRIAG, an earthquake 4.9 on the Richter Scale in the eastern part of Egypt struck on 20 February. NRIAG's head said the quake occurred at the entrance of the Suez Gulf. Residents of Hurghada, in the Red Sea governorate, felt it.
The last time Egypt was hit by a strong earthquake was in 1992. Measuring 6.0 on the Richter Scale, the quake lasted for a few minutes, causing the collapse of 205 buildings while 3,759 buildings were damaged. Five hundred people died and another 6,500 were injured. Losses were estimated at LE4 billion.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that since 1900, there have been an average of 18 major earthquakes worldwide at a magnitude ranging between 7.0-7.9 and one great earthquake at 8.0 or greater per year, according to the Richter Scale. This average has been relatively stable.

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