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Earthquake History

I have made every effort to ensure that the information contained in this KEFALONIA & ITHACA SECTION is as accurate as possible. However, I cannot be held responsible for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies. I have merely included information to share with anyone interested in Kefalonia & Ithaca and not for profit making. Anyone using this information should have it verified from a different source.


Kefalonia lies just to the east of a major tectonic fault, where the European plate meets the Aegean plate at a slip boundary, regular earthquakes acccur along this fault. This is similar to the more famous San Andreas Fault.

tectonic_map

A series of four earthquakes hit the island in August 1953, and caused major destruction, with virtually every house on the island destroyed, including all of the characterful old stone buildings on the island, constructed during Venetian and then British rule. The third and most destructive of the quakes took place on August 12, 1953 at 09:24 UTC (11:24 local time), with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale. Its epicentre was directly below the southern tip of Cephalonia, and caused the entire island to be raised 60 cm (24 in) higher, where it remains, with evidence in water marks on rocks around the coastline.

The 1953 Ionian earthquake disaster caused the death of over 600 people, huge destruction, with only regions in the north escaping the heaviest tremors and houses there remaining intact. Damage was estimated to run into tens of millions of dollars, equivalent to billions of drachmas, but the real damage to the economy occurred when residents left the island.

An estimated 100,000 of the population of 125,000 left the island soon after, seeking a new life elsewhere. Some people temporarily moved to the capital, however the majority emigrated out of Greece entirely to countries such as Canada, USA or the UK, leaving both the islands and their economy in ruins.

Following the earthquake international aid promptly arrived, first in practical terms and then in the re-building process. Assos was charmingly rebuilt almost entirely due to the generosity of the French. Elsewhere re-construction had to be more practical and, out of necessity, characterless concrete cubes superseded centuries old stonework. The blandness of the buildings is unseen amidst the abundant natural beauty of this beautiful island.

Following the 1953 earthquake, building regulations were changed to factor-in earthquakes and all new constructions have to be reinforced with steel and be capable of withstanding major earthquakes. Earthquakes are a regular feature of life on Kefalonia and are usually over before realisation occurs. I have been visiting the island for over ten years and have felt at least three minor earthquakes.

On 14 August, 2003 - fifty years and a day after the Kefalonia earthquake, a strong earthquake hit nearby Levkas. Although fairly substantial damage occurred, no one was killed or seriously injured and no buildings were destroyed. Kefalonia and Ithaka were hardly affected

November, 2003, a quake of magnitude 5.3 shook the island, causing only minor damage in Argostoli. - September, 2005, a 4.9 quake occurred in the sea close to Lixouri. Again, only minor damage occurred. - August, 27, 2007 a 5.1 quake occurred at sea just to the west of Kefalonia. No serious damage was recorded.

Unfortunately after so many years of minor shocks and earthquakes, the island was hit in January and February, 2014 by 2 major earthquakes followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

argostoli_damage1Eight days after the first Magditude 6.1 earthquake that hit the region of Argostoli, on January 26th, 2014 at 13:55 UTC (15:55 local time), a second Magditude 6.0 earthquake hit this region on February 3rd, at 03:08 UTC (05:08 local time).

Since the first shock, numerous aftershocks have been recorded. In 9 days, 434 Magditude 3+, 51 Magditude 4+, and 3 Magditude 5+ earthquakes have been recorded in this sequence.

The worst damage occurred on the Luxori side of the island. According to first estimates, around 600 buildings are deemed demolished, 1,100 heavy damaged and 1,400 with minor damage throughout the region of Palliki while there are several problems in public infrastructure such as roads, ports and public buildings that need restoration. Unlike the earthquake of 1953 there was no loss of life.

I was on the island in July, 2014 staying in Lassi, on my travels into the Argostoli harbour area I could see cracks and buckled concrete that have appeared all along the boat moorings. I also found the main coast road up to Mirtos impassable, blocked by rockfalls.

I detoured across the island to Sami, along the coast road to Agia Effimia then up to the high mountain village of Komitata (all of which appeared undamaged). I then cut across the island again to come out north of Assos, then down to Mirtos where the road is being repaired and the mountain is being pinned back. Also, a concrete safety barrier is being built. Furthermore, a bridge is to be constructed to take the roadway across the nasty bends around Mirtos. Seven million euros have been allocated for the work to be carried out in the near future.

During my stay friends and locals I met were just carring on as if nothing had happended and continued looking after all it's vistors like they have always done with their usual friendly manner on this most amazing and beautiful island that I love to visit.

mirtos_damage   argostoli_damage
Left: The road north of Mirtos with the mountainside being pinned back. Right & above: Damage to Argostoli.



2019 update Argostoli: It had been five years since I had witnessed the damage here. So, I was very pleased to see that all the concrete along the harbour has been removed and is being replaced by new paving (still to be completed). Although while I was there it appeared to me that the work was being done quite rapidly without delay. The damaged Drapano bridge has also been completely repaved and the damaged walls to the bridge repaired or replaced, street lighting has also been installed all along the bridge.

2019 update Mirtos: I had a wonderful drive from Arogostoli along the beautiful picturesque coastal road to Mirtos. I was very pleased to see that all the damage that had occurred here during the major 2014 earthquakes have been repaired. The mountainside has been pinned back and all the scheduled repairs around Mirtos completed. The island has recovered remarkably well after such major earthquakes. Mirtos beach was as beautiful as ever, and the sea was so calm. Even though I have seen it so many times over the years it still takes my breath away . . .
. . . Mirtos really is a sight to see.


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