MARINE geoscientists from Barcelona University are to make a study of areas of the Mediterranean where tsunamis would be most likely to form and pose a threat to coastal communities.

Their research will include undersea findings in waters around the Balearic Islands, focusing on any structural faults and sea bed movement over the last 100'000 years. It is these marine landslides that could be the cause of the “sea surge” that characterises the phenomenon known as “tsunami,” responsible in recent history for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Thailand.

Angelo Camerlenghi, head of the project codenamed “Medslide,” said yesterday that the research will start within two or three years time and will consist of the use of craft with drilling facilities, similar to those used for oil exploration, which will probe to 400 metres in depth to find examples of ancient subsea landslide activity - a phenomenon which is responsible for 20 percent of earthquakes worldwide.

Camerlenghi, who is also a geologist at Catalonia's Research and Advanced Studies Institute, said that these drilling vessels which are currently on assignments in the Indian and Pacific Oceans similarly charged with locating landslide points capable of generating major earthquakes, will focus their attention in Spain on the area of Mediterranean sea known as the Ibiza canal as well as the Ebro continental gap. The team will also further their studies in Sicily, Israel and the Nile delta.

Camerlenghi warned that the Mediterranean contained areas which had the potential to be points from which a tsunami could develop. He said that “if something happened, it could give rise to a really serious situation,” because over the next few years, even higher numbers of people are going to be living along the coastal areas. It is these people who would be badly hit by the development of a tsunami. He pointed to the fact that on 21st May 2003, seismic activity in Algeria gave rise to an earthquake that half an hour later was felt in the Balearic Islands.


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