Thursday, March 4, 2010

Egypt and Syria,Earthquake 1201

The earthquake on May 20, 1202, has been incorrectly reported as from 2 to 4 events covering the period 1201-1204. Excerpts from reference #2799 summarizing the analysis of this earthquake are listed below:

A large earthquake was widely felt in the Middle East around daybreak on the morning of 20 May 1202. Contemporary sources indicate that the shock was felt from Lesser Armenia, parts of Anatolia and northwest Iran down to Qus in Upper Egypt, and from Sicily in the west to Iraq and Mesopotamia in the east. Along with this very large felt area, an ensuing seismic sea-wave and aftershock sequence, the earthquake was associated with extensive and serious damage in Syria and to a lesser extent in Cyprus, with great loss of life... Despite the conspicuous duality of accounts in almost all Muslim sources, probably reflecting protracted aftershock activity, there remains no evidence of more than one principal earthquake... The loss of life caused by this earthquake and its aftershocks is difficult to estimate. A figure frequently quoted in Arab sources is 1,100,000 dead for the year 597-598 H. (A.D. 1201-1202). This specifically includes those dying of famine and the epidemic consequent on the failure of the Nile floods. More realistically, the figure of 30,000 casualties is given, primarily; it would seem, in the Nablus area. No reliance can be placed on such figures, but the fact that the main shock occurred at dawn, when most people were in bed, without noticeable foreshocks, probably contributed to a high death toll.

Aftershocks were reported from Hamah, Damascus, and Cairo, for at least four days, one of which, apparently felt in Cairo and Hamah, must have been a large event. There remains the possibility that the aftershock sequence was terminated with a destructive shock that totally destroyed what was left of Nablus, but it seems preferable to consider both reports by Sibt b. al-Jausi as referring to the same one shock. Whatever the exact sequence of events, the cumulative effects of the earthquake were clearly catastrophic... the magnitude of the 1202 earthquake should be Ms = 7.6.