Antonyan says no one should panic about
The powerful earthquake that hit the Iranian
city of Bam and killed about 35,000 people last
month caused controversial comments among Armenian
The President of the Armenian Association of
Seismologists and Earth Physics invited journalists
to a press conference last week to announce that
the earthquake in Iran would cause a high seismic
activity in the next 12 months in the whole region
"There is clear indication of a new wave
of seismic activity traveling across the region,"
said Sergey Balasanyan, president of the association.
The announcement was criticized by specialists
of the National Survey for Seismic Protection
(NSSP) who called it "injudicious" and
said that "there is no such technique or
specialists in the world for precise prediction
"I respect my colleague Balasanyan and his
opinion, but announcements like that have to be
done very careful not to spread a panic among
the population, especially that the journalists
immediately make a sensation from such kind of
news," said Alvaro Antonyan, head of NSSP.
When, on January 16, an earthquake ranging from
3-4 on the Richter Scale was registered in the
Armenian marzes of Lori, Shirak and Tavush, some
media outlets commented the news as an incontestable
proof of Balasanyan forecast.
Specialists who did not share Balasanyan's view
say his announcement was based on conjecture which
coincided with the tremor in Armenia.
"Last year there were registered about 30
similar quakes throughout Armenia," says
Antonyan. "And this is normal, taking into
consideration that the Armenian Platteau is situated
in a very high seismic zone. Meanwhile Bam, which
is situated some 1,700 kilometers south of Armenia,
is too far for having impact. Earthquake is a
disaster which is unfortunately mostly unpredictable;
otherwise no country would suffer it."
The officials of the Emergency Management Administration
under the Government of Armenia also questioned
"Balasanyan is a highly qualified specialist
who actually created the seismic service in Armenia.
He used to head the NSSP and resigned last year.
But his recent announcements were ungrounded and
directed to attract attention of media,"
says Colonel Nicolay Grigoryan, the head of the
Emergency Channel Information Center.
"Our organization can not reduce the danger,
but we can reduce the consequences of the earthquake
for which we work day and night," he says.
The seismologists of the NSSP say that their
service has enough capacity to fix the change
of seismic activity. However they can not tell
exactly when, where and in which strait an earthquake
will happen. In case of all indications of earthquake
they would announce an emergency situation.
"NSSP is a well organized body, where 750
employees work in 150 stations throughout Armenia
and we can check over 40 different geophysical
and other parameters. Our equipment allows us
to fix even the smallest strikes in each corner
of the world and each morning we get reports from
our stations about earthquake activity. But we
cannot tell exactly when, where and of which magnitude
the earthquake will hit," Antonyan says.
For the present, he adds, the only truth that
seismologists all over the world share is that
powerful earthquakes may repeat in the same place
during the next 35-40 years.