Minor quakes - relief or warning? [p.3]

While not comparable to some of the devastating earthquakes seen in California or Japan, Israel has experienced three earthquakes over the past two months along the Syro-African Depression in the Jordan Valley. The most recent occurred on Sunday. Each of the earthquakes have ranged between 4 to 4.4 in magnitude, according to Dr. Rivka Amit, head of the department of engineering of geology and geological hazards at the Geological Survey of Israel, a research institute within the Ministry of National Infrastructures. The most recent earthquake to surpass the magnitude of these earthquakes occurred in 2004 when an earthquake measured at 5.2. The strongest ever to happen in Israel was in 1927. Yesterday's earthquake is a reminder for people to be aware of earthquakes. "It reminds us that there may be a problem in the future as there has been in the past. People are worried because the Dead Sea produces earthquakes," Amit said. The Geological Survey of Israel, which was established in 1947 by the government, has several research projects ongoing in the Dead Sea area, where the earthquakes stem from. Amit explained that energy could be accumulating along the depression, which includes Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The good news about the recent spate of earthquakes, according to her, is that the smaller earthquakes release the energy in safe amounts compared to a more destructive, large-magnitude earthquake. The bad news is that at some point in the future a stronger earthquake will come. "It will come but we don't know when," she said. "A large magnitude earthquake - measuring above a 6 - can happen within the next few hundred years, so we have to prepare ourselves." We have to focus on building construction codes which will help ensure structures remain intact should a large earthquake or other national disaster occur, Amit added. The government is currently working on new building codes that utilize adaptations from the codes of other countries, such as the United States, Japan and Europe.