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Canal could cause earthquakes, Egypt warns

Thin crust Earth to blame

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The head of the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has warned that a new canal linking the Red and Dead seas could increase the risk of an earthquake in the Middle East, saying that the project would lead to "strong seismic activity in the region".

Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians have signed a joint agreement for a study of the construction of the canal, which would carry up to 850m tonnes of water every year from the Red sea to the Dead sea. It is designed to generate electricity for a desalination plant and provide water to cool Israel's nuclear reactors.

It will also be used to top-up the water level in the Dead Sea, which is at risk of drying up, according to Israeli research.

But Ahmed Ali Fadel, chairman of the SCA, said that the risk of triggering a seismic event was greater in the region because the Earth's crust is thinner in the Gulf of Aqaba than anywhere else, Reuters reports.

Peter Sammonds, professor of geophysics at UCL, told us: "Large artificial reservoirs can trigger earthquakes by changing the stress in the crust. What could trigger an earthquake is not the canal or the rush of water, but a change in the level of the Dead Sea."

Pumping water into the Dead Sea could also cause the wells in neighbouring countries to become saltier. You can read more about the region here.

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