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News 06 Jul 17

Macedonia Experts Calm Fears of Volcanic Eruption

Experts have dismissed reports that the series of small earthquakes that have shaken the lakeside town of Ohrid are awakening a long extinct volcano.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

As ground around the lakeside resort of Ohrid continues to shake from time to time, scaring residents and tourists alike, experts have dismissed fears that the quakes could reactivate a long extinct volcano believed to have existed in the area millions of years ago.

On Monday, some media came out with bombastic headlines claiming that the series of quakes had "reactivated the only living volcano in the Balkans".

The area they spoke of is the site known as Duvalo, near the village of Kosel, in the Ohrid basin, which is famous for its rare geo-thermal phenomenon: sulphuric gasses emitting from the ground.

The reports alleged that the earthquakes have caused new cracks in the ground there and increased emission of gasses in this area, which might lead to a volcanic eruption.

Seismologists and geologists dismissed the claims as mere sensationalism.

The head of the Skopje-based Institute for Earthquake Engineering, IZIIS, Mihail Garevski, said the earthquakes are neither a cause nor a possible consequence of a supposed volcanic activity.

"People should know that in Macedonia and in the Balkans there are no active volcanoes, so things should not get confused," Garevski said.

The Institute of Geography at Skopje state university came out with a similar dismissal.

"We are talking about a crack in the deeper layers of the earth through which gasses come to the surface. It is true that this is a result of volcanic activity that happened on today's Macedonian territory, over 5 million years ago, but from a scientific standpoint this is not a volcano but a common crack," the Geography Institute at the university told media.

'Swarm' of earthquakes may have occurred:

Since June 18, the area around Ohrid has been hit by about a thousand smaller tremors, dozens of which, with higher intensity, were felt by local residents.

The one that caused most worries was a 5-magnitude earthquake, which hit at 1.18pm on Monday, whose tremors were felt in the capital, Skopje, around 170 kilometres away.

Residents reported broken chimneys, cracked walls and some destroyed home appliances as a result, but there have been no injuries.

The tremors that preceded and followed the one on Monday, ranging from 3 to 4 in magnitude, have increased the unease among residents and even prompted some tourists to leave the area.

Garevski believes the town has been hit by a rare phenomenon called a "swarm of earthquakes", with no classical pattern of foreshock, main hit and subsiding aftershocks.

Meanwhile, the Ohrid scouts organization has offered residents to spend nights in tents at their camp. On Tuesday, the army said it has opened its own summer camp stationed there for the same purpose.

The IZIIS and the Crisis Management Centre have also sent teams to assess the damage and structural integrity of schools and kindergartens in expectation of further tremors.

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