May 24

Lemnos Earthquake 6.9 Rattles My Holiday


I don’t know about you but things don’t really happen to me on holiday. Natural disasters only seem to happen to other people and so when my wife booked a sailing holiday on the Greek Island of Lemnos my biggest fear was mastering the sailing dinghy so I didn’t get wet too many times. I failed miserably, I got constantly wet, but had great fun. After a week of mountain biking, tennis, sailing and snorkelling, we were ready to go home.

The trip to the airport was uneventful, just another beautiful day on the sunny Lemnos Island. We arrived at the airport and checked in our bags. I don’t think there were any other flights out that day. So the only people around were other fellow Neilson holiday adventurers.

We still had an hour or two to kill before going through to departures and so we settled down with some coffees and our friends Martin and Caroline to reminisce about the holiday. After a few drinks, I sauntered off to the toilet, it was still only 12.25 am, plenty of time before we needed to go through to departures. The toilets were clean and my mind was buzzing with the holiday… or was that the floor buzzing, at first I thought it was some kind of underground train.

I washed my hands and then noticed that the walls were moving too… Had the plane just crashed into the terminal?

Lemnos Earthquake

I ran out into the main terminal where there was pandemonium, tiles were falling from the ceiling and people were running around in circles not knowing what to do. The walls were swaying and I panicked as soon as I saw where we were sitting. There was a pile of rubble over the chairs where Sue, Martin and Caroline had been sitting moments before. My crushed coffee cup was lying on the floor.

I looked out of the main entrance and the pillars were still swaying from side to side. I was worried about running the gauntlet underneath the concrete ceiling. Was Sue alright? I knew she had got out of the building, but had she been hit by the falling tiles. One woman was cradling her bleeding head! Not good.

Evacuation of Lemnos Airport

And then I saw Sue and Caroline, shaken but safe in the car park. At last, the blue sky above and the tremors had stopped. A small aftershock and things were back to normal. I gather that Martin had scooped up some unsuspecting child as he rushed out the door. Now all the families were reunited as we baked in the sunshine for the next 3 hours. I skipped the morning sun cream ritual as I didn’t think I would be out in the open. Now I missed the sun cream as I burnt up in the car park.

They almost diverted our aircraft to Athens until they decided that the runway was safe for landing. The girl with the bleeding head, she had recovered too and it turned out that she lived just down the road from us back in England.

So what was the Richter scale of the earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported a magnitude of 6.4, later revised to 6.9. If you look that up on the charts, they say it’s noteworthy! So imagine a real disaster.

Oh well, back safe and sound to Blighty.


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