Maximum wave crests heights predicted by
a computer simulation of the ancient event. Blue lines are arrival times
of the first tsunami waves.(File Photo)
Dec. 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Imagine a volcano avalanche generated tsunami 10
stories high containing enough sediment and rock to cover the entire
island of Manhattan with a layer of debris thicker than the height
of Empire State Building.
According to a computer simulation, that's what
happened 8,000 years ago in Sicily when Mt. Etna erupted and produced
an avalanche that hurled six cubic miles of dirt and rock into the water,
creating a tsunami that spread across the entire Mediterranean Sea and onto the
shore of three continents in only a few hours.
The mountain of rubble swept into the sea at
more than 200 mph, pulverized the sea bed and changed thick layers of soft
marine sediment into jelly. It also started an underwater mudslide that flowed
for hundreds of miles.
Researchers at the National Institute of Geology and
Volcanolgy in Italy have also linked the tsunami with the mysterious
abandonment of Atlit-Yam, a Neolithic village located along the coast of
When archeologists discovered the village about 20
years ago, they found evidence of a sudden evacuation, including a pile of fish
that had been gutted and sorted but then left to rot.
"A tsunami was not suspected before," said lead
researcher Maria Pareschi.
To create their computer simulation, researchers used
sonar-equipped boats to survey seafloor sediment displaced by the Mt. Etna
Their recreation suggests the tsunami's waves reached
heights of up to 130 feet and maximum speeds of up to 450 mph, making it more
powerful than the Indonesian tsunami that killed more than 180,000 people in
According to Pareschi, if the same tsunami struck
today, Southern Italy would be covered with water within the first 15
minutes. An hour later the waves would reach Greece's western coasts. After an
hour and a half, the city of Benghazi in Northern Africa would be hit. At the
three and a half hour mark, the waves would have traversed the entire
Mediterranean to reach the coasts of Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
"Should the Neolithic Etna tsunami have occurred
today, the impact is tremendous because the Eastern Mediterranean coasts are
very inhabited ones," Pereschi said.
Avalanches and minor eruptions still occur on Mt.
Etna today, but so far, nothing approaching the magnitude of the ancient