0Earthquakes & the geology of Crete

The Medi­ter­ranean is a geo­lo­gic­ally act­ive area and so you may won­der if Crete has earth­quakes or vol­ca­noes. The short answer is simple enough: Crete has earth­quakes but no vol­ca­noes, but it is worth know­ing a little more than that…

Crete exists because of geo­lo­gic forces, spe­cific­ally the north­ward move­ment of Africa into Euras­ia which has pushed moun­tains up all over south­ern Europe includ­ing the moun­tains of Crete. This geo­lo­gic activ­ity is also respons­ible for vol­ca­noes fur­ther north includ­ing Etna, Vesuvi­us, and San­torini. The Medi­ter­ranean is also pushed and pulled bu the same forces and is much deep­er than many people real­ise with the deep­est part being The Calypso Deep which is found in the Hel­len­ic Trench to the south west of Crete. There is some excel­lent inform­a­tion about the geo­logy and plate move­ments around Crete on Sfakia-Crete.com

Crete exper­i­ences reg­u­lar earth­quake activ­ity and there is a small chance you might exper­i­ence an earth­quake whilst vis­it­ing. I estim­ate I have vis­ited Crete close to 100 times, typ­ic­ally for 2–3 weeks each, and in that time I have only exper­i­enced one earth­quake. The last not­able earth­quake around Crete was on 2nd May 2020, which meas­ured approx­im­ately 6.6 on the Richter scale. There was no report of dam­age or injur­ies. Pri­or to that the pre­vi­ous sig­ni­fic­ant earth­quake was on 27th Nov 2019 and was meas­ured at 6.0 on the Richter scale. This also caused no injur­ies or dam­age. Earth­quakeTrack shows the biggest earth­quakes in the last 20 years have meas­ured 6.6 on the Richter scale. These occurred this year, and in 2013, with the 2013 quake caus­ing minor dam­age and minor injury only.

The last time there were cas­u­al­ties in Crete from an earth­quake was in 1956 when an earth­quake in the Dodecanese (north of Crete) triggered a tsunami that killed 53 people. Pri­or to that the last major earth­quake res­ult­ing in deaths occurred in 1810 and killed approx­im­ately 2,000 people.

As you can prob­ably tell, whilst Crete is prone to earth­quakes, the risk to life is very low. The earth­quakes exper­i­enced on Crete rarely top 6.5 on the Richter scale and at this level they usu­ally only cause minor dam­age or non at all. Cretan build­ings and towns are rel­at­ively safe dur­ing earth­quakes as they tend to be 4–5 storeys tall at most, and are built from steel-rein­forced con­crete set onto sol­id bedrock.

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