Armenia Vulnerable to Quake after Iran Disaster

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A leading Armenian seismologist revealed on Wednesday that the deadly earthquake that leveled the Iranian city of Bam last month could send powerful aftershocks to neighboring countries–including Armenia–in the course of this year.

The country’s seismic protection agency dismissed the warning–however–arguing that techniques to reliably and precisely forecast earthquakes have not yet been developed.

"The Iranian earthquake will certainly cause new seismic activities in the entire region," said Sergei Balasanian–the former head of the agency who now heads the non-governmental Armenian Association of Seismologists. "The affected area will be quite vast. This earthquake is putting the Caucasus–Central Asian republics–Pakistan–Iraq–and Turkey in jeopardy."

"This is the unanimous opinion of seismologists," he added.

Balasanian said the Bam quake is likely to be followed by "disastrous" tremors in some of the mentioned areas within the next eleven months and that the Armenian authorities should undertake measures to alleviate consequences of a possible calamity. He said his prediction is based on recent years’ seismic developmen’s in the entire region–notably Turkey.

The alarming analysis was seriously questioned by the current head of the National Service of Seismic Protection–Alvaro Antonian. "I am very surprised to hear such information. Predicting means knowing when and where an earthquake will take place and what will be its magnitude," he said. "That is impossible to do at present."

Antonian also argued that Bam is too far away from Armenia to have an immediate seismic impact. Armenian monitoring stations have so far not detected any signs of increased underground activity–he said.

The Iranian quake epicenter is located approximately 1,700 kilometers southeast of the Armenian border.

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