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Earthquake alert issued for Kamchatka after space observations show threat

By Olga Krepysheva
27 July 2012

An earthquake in the vicinity of the Russian Far Eastern city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky can be expected in the coming days, say scientists.

The alert suggesting a quake with a magnitude of 6 on the Richter Scale was issued by Russian Space Systems company.

'The probability of a seismologically dangerous event within the next 3-5 days is 80%', forecast Professor Sergei Pulinets on 27 July. 

Mr Pulinets is scientific adviser, specialising in earthquake prediction to the Russian company, which is the lead player in GLONASS, the Russian satellite navigation system. 

'The strong thermal anomaly which points to the coming earthquake was located by me and my colleagues on the 25 July,' he stressed.

'The possible area of the earthquake is near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky".

It is believed to be the first time the company has gone public with a forecast of a significant quake close to a major urban centre. 

The data of a severe risk of an earthquake was 'confirmed by information from navigational satellite systems and by  calculations of cross-correlation coefficients in the area Petropavlovsk and Yuzho-Sakhalinsk'.

The space company made clear: 'This forecast has already been forwarded to the Russian Emergencies Ministry and to the Earth Physics Scientific Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences."

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is a city of 179,526 people lying in a region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. 

The city itself is built on hills surrounded by volcanoes. It lies some 6,766 km or 4,204 miles east of Moscow. 

The company believes it has made significant progress in predicting earthquakes and other natural disasters and in June urged the creation of small orbiting satellites capable of gauging atmospheric ionisation to enable far greater accuracy.

Such warnings could potentially save vast numbers of lives in many countries. 

'While doing GLONASS, we saw that levels of free electrons in the ionosphere are changing prior to an earthquake,' said Yury Urlichich, general director and general design engineer at Russian Space Systems earlier this year.

'In the seven hours before the disaster in Japan in March last year we saw an outburst above the future epicentre. 

'To avoid putting too many seismic stations we suggest sending small satellites into space, which could be linked to one another, gauging a signal delay in the ionosphere.'

Pulinets graduated from physics department of Moscow University in 1972 and is a specialist in short term earthquake forecasts.

On 17 July he correctly predicted a 6 point earthquake which came three days later some 137 km from Severo-Kurilsk town, in the sea near Kuril Islands.

The earthquake - preceded by three minor quakes - shook the town for about 30 seconds. 

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