Earthquake rattles Baltic Sea region from Poland to Tallinn

  • 2004-09-22
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS-RIGA - An earthquake centered in the Kaliningrad region sent a powerful wave of aftershocks throughout the Baltics on Sept. 21.

Residents of all three Baltic capitals felt the series of jolts, which measured as high as 5.3 on the Richter scale, the Lithuanian Geology Service stated.

The service reported that the initial earthquake was registered in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and even Austria. The first aftershock was reportedly felt in the seaside city of Liepaja at around 2:10 p.m. Shaking furniture, breaking dishes and a few overturned flower pots caused Liepaja residents to call local rescue services.

The first quake was registered also in Klaipeda and at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, but no disturbance to the reactors was reported.

Then, at 4:35 p.m., an aftershock was felt in Riga and Tallinn. Staff at The Baltic Times headquarters nearby Dome Square in Riga's Old Town could also feel the tremors shake the walls and floor.

The aftershock was even stronger in Liepaja, forcing people to flee their houses in fright.

Lithuanian Geology Service director Juozas Mockevicius said the tremors did not pose a big danger.

"One should not panic. We are in a territory that is safe enough from a seismological point of view. These tremors should not have destructive power," Mockevicius said, adding that human life comes under threat when an earthquake measures 6.0-8.0 on the Richter scale.

Still, "it was a strong earth tremor for our latitudes," Mockevicius admitted.

Captain Viktoras Lukosevicius at Klaipeda Sea Port told the Baltic News Service that the earthquake did not disrupt port operations, and that ships were entering and leaving the port as scheduled.

Curiously, people working in Lithuania's highest building 's the Radio and TV Tower in Vilnius 's said they did not feel a thing. Hanner Company employees working on the 30th floor of the Europa business center did not feel anything either.

According to Mockevicius, the last earthquake in Lithuania was recorded in 2001, though it was much lighter. The last time tremors were registered in the 4.0 - 5.0 range on the Richter scale in Lithuania was in 1997.

Meanwhile, in Latvia the quake immediately became cause for concern. Latvia's Geology Service director Maris Seglins said the event confirmed the inability of Latvian specialists to get data promptly and the acute need for a modern seismic monitoring network. He said that Latvia has only one seismic station in the northern city of Valmiera, and it is outdated.

"According to the laws of physics, we should have three stations," said Seglins, explaining that the other two stations should be built in the central and western parts of the country both for scientific and practical needs.

He said Estonia had three modern seismic stations and that Lithuania had three stations plus a separate security system for Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant.

"Sooner or later Europe will make us do all of this to take care of their safety," said Seglins.