• Austria's news in English

Large-scale earthquake 'possible' in Vienna

The Local · 15 Dec 2015, 13:03

Published: 15 Dec 2015 13:03 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A seismically active fault system runs deep under the Vienna Basin geological area, which covers Vienna, Lower Austria and parts of Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Because many of the fault lines have been inactive for the last 200 or 300 years they are not thought to be hazardous.

However, geologist Dr. Kurt Decker from the University of Vienna told The Local that the risk of a large-scale earthquake occurring in the Vienna region has been underestimated and that scientists must examine historical data more closely.

"Earthquake records have only existed since around 1900, and therefore do not date far enough back to be able to make accurate predictions.

Of course such strong earthquakes are extremely rare but we need to examine data over a longer time period, we’re talking about thousands of years," he said.

"There are half a dozen known fault lines under the Vienna Basin which are moving at a very slow rate, but we believe that every 20,000 years or so they are capable of causing an earthquake on the scale of 6.0 or 7.0 on the Richter scale,” he added.  

The devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010 had a magnitude of 7.0, and affected an estimated three million people.  “An earthquake of this scale in the Vienna region could have a catastrophic social and economic impact,” Decker said. “This is the seat of government and the most densely populated area in Austria.”

The Neulengbach earthquake of 1590 is the strongest historically documented earthquake in north eastern Austria, and it is estimated to have measured at 5.5 - 6.0 on the Richter scale.

Story continues below…

A 2007 study by the reinsurance company Munich Re estimated a damage potential of between €10 billion and €15 billion to private property in Vienna alone should an earthquake comparable to Neulengbach ever happen again.

Decker and his team have been gathering data on one of the fault lines under the Vienna Basin, using geological techniques to examine sediment layers left in the landscape after an earthquake which allow them to date the quake and get an estimate of its magnitude.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Verdict on swimming pool rape case overturned
The Theresienbad swimming pool in Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia

An Iraqi refugee who was jailed after claiming it was a sexual emergency when he raped a boy in a swimming pool has had the sentence overturned.

Vienna Comic Con promises to be 'bigger and more galactic'
Cosplay star Yaya Han. Copyright: Yaya Han/Bryan Humphrey

Comic Con returns to the Austrian capital on November 19th-20th at the Messe Wien.

Three refugees arrested on drugs charges
Cannabis plants. Photo: J. Patrick Bedell/Wikimedia

A gang of three Afghani drug dealers has been busted in Vienna.

Hungarian woman crushed by snowcat piste machine
Snowcat machine. Photo: Melensdad/Wikimedia

A young Hungarian woman has died after being crushed by a snowcat piste machine on the Dobratsch mountain in Carinthia.

Austrian policeman sentenced over 'Heil Hitler' salute
Photo: Flickr

A policeman in Austria was sentenced on Thursday for shouting "Heil Hitler" at a driver during a traffic check at the Hungarian border in April.

Scary clown craze endangers crucial work of clown 'doctors'
Photo: Bojan Tavcar

Within the last couple weeks, disturbing events involving masked individuals has caught public attention in Austria.

Chimney sweep rescues lost mushroom picker
Photo: James Lindsey/Wikimedia

A 76-year-old Austrian man who went out mushroom picking almost froze to death after getting lost and spending the night in the forest.

Refugees sold into forced prostitution
File photo: UNHCR

Female refugees are being sold into forced prostitution in Austria, a police investigation into human trafficking has found.

Driverless bus takes a spin around Salzburg's old town
The Arma driverless shuttle bus. Photo: Navya

A driverless minibus has made a test journey in the city of Salzburg.

No jail time for asylum seeker who dumped baby in road
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A man who grabbed his own child and dumped her in the middle of a busy road has been given a nine-month suspended sentence.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available