UK experts have urged Malta to re-evaluate the risk of a tsunami hitting the island following a study which warned that huge waves hit Malta in the past and a repeat would have serious consequences.
The studies were given prominence in the UK's Independent and Daily Mail newspapers.
Scientists from the University of Portsmouth found geological evidence that tsunami waves have swept over Malta's coastline - rising to up to 20 metres above sea level in some places.
They identified 70-ton boulders inland that were picked up from the seabed before being carried along by the huge waves and dumped far inland.
Studies of neighbouring coastlines showed there has been a major tsunami, on average, every 400 years, thought to be linked to earthquakes beneath Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy.
Scientist Professor Derek Mottershead said: 'It appears that no event of the magnitude indicted by the new evidence has occurred within the past 300 years and so there is no historical memory of any such devastating event.'
He added: 'It is highly likely that there have been other equally devastating waves previously and that there will be more in the future.'
(Malta was affected by a major earthquake which devastated Catania in 1693 and an earthquake which shook Messina in 1908. The areas most affected were particularly areas such as Msida and Xlendi).
Lead scientist Dr Malcolm Bray said: 'The most important thing we can do is to educate people about the risk and give the Maltese government the evidence needed to prepare and protect residents and holidaymakers.
'However, if a repeat tsunami occurred now, the risks are high. In the light of these recent findings it now appears that Malta would benefit from a re-evaluation of the tsunami threat
'If people feel an earthquake, they need to know that there is a risk of a tsunami, and if they see the sea recede they should know to get to higher ground.
'Fortunately in Malta, higher ground is never far away, but people do need to be made aware of the risks.'
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