EARTHQUAKES measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale rocked Slovakia last week. Although the epicentre was in Poland, near Zakopane, many Slovaks felt the ground shift thousands of kilometres away, especially in the Tatra mountains and in the Orava region.
In fact, the ground shook in more than half of Slovakia when the quakes hit on Tuesday, November 30, and Thursday, December 2. Besides those living in the Tatras and Orava, people in the western part of the country, from Trenčín all the way south to Lučenec, and in the East in Košice and Humenné, felt the tremors. The magnitude of the earthquake (4.5) is considered medium.
"Earthquakes in Slovakia and further east are of tectonic origin, created in fault zones where two blocks meet," said Peter Labák, chief of the Seismology Department at the Geophysical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Science.
Many Slovak newspapers and TV channels reported people's initial explanations for the trembling. A fuel station employee thought a lorry had crashed into his station, STV 1 reported. Others guessed it was an earthquake when they saw lamps vibrate, pictures fall from walls and plates slide off their shelves and crash to the floor.
Stronger earthquakes have hit Slovakia. One was in the 18th century in a fault zone called Komárno. The other hit Dobrá Voda near Trnava in 1906. These were also tectonic quakes, but as Labák said, "they happened in different tectonic fault zones" than the ones last week.
Slovakia's tectonic faults are in Modra-Pernek in the East; Dobrá Voda and the Považie region, between Trenčín and Žilina; Komárno in Central Slovakia between Banská Bystrica and Brezno; the Spiš region; Slánske; and in the Vyhorlatské mountains.
Tectonic development in Slovakia is not yet over. That means plates are moving and new earthquakes are inevitable. Unfortunately, experts cannot predict them.
Seismologists generally agree that long-term predictions, of months and years in advance, are impossible. On the other hand, they say that short-term predictions are possible, but the science is not there yet.
Slovakia encounters earthquakes infrequently - certainly less than Greece or Italy, for example. But Slovaks spend lots of time in these earthquake-prone countries, especially on holidays.
So, in case of an earthquake, there are a few rules everybody should follow. If you are inside a building, make sure you are clear of falling objects. Step away from windows or other glass objects. Do not try to escape the building; it is safer to stay inside and hide under stable constructions - the bed, the table or in the frame of a door with your hands crossed over your head. If you are in a high building or a skyscraper, hide underneath a table straight away. Never use lifts or enter the stairwell. If you are in a shop full of people, stay calm; panic will result in easily avoidable injuries. If you are outside, keep away from buildings, electric lines, chimneys and other constructions. If you are driving, park in an empty area, also clear of buildings, electric lines, chimneys and other constructions.
If possible, notify the Geophysical Institute during or directly after you experience an earthquake. According to Ladák, eyewitness information is useful to scientists.
"We will ask callers questions, ask them to describe what they felt, what was their personal experience. We are also interested in what happened to small items: plates, lamps, bookshelves, furniture or hanging objects," said Ladák.
The institute also needs to know if the building in which callers were during the earthquake was damaged. All of the questions seismologists are interested in are contained in what the institute calls a macro-seismic questionnaire. Interested parties can find all contact details on www.seismology.sk
13. Dec 2004 at 0:00 | Magdaléna MacLeod