Can we have an earthquake here?

Many of my British clients are surprised when I mention that Alicante, Murcia, Almeria and Granada are regions with a high probability to have an earthquake.


It is really the whole southeast of the Spanish peninsula, the zone with an average seismic risk as the recent case in Lorca (Murcia).


Earthquakes registered in the city of Lorca are not the first that have occurred in Spain. The southeast peninsula has a medium- seismic risk condition, with the potential to have an occurrence of up to a magnitude of 6 or 7 on the Richter scale. Spain has suffered several major earthquakes in its history with high fatalities. Currently, it is very difficult to predict the precise day and time of an earthquake, but scientists are working with several systems to know when an area is more likely to suffer an earthquake in a short period of time.


Which are the most recent earthquakes in Spain?

May 11, 2011, a date which will never be forgotten by the residents of Lorca. At least nine people died, more than two hundred people where injures and thousands of people evacuated from their homes. It is the tragic toll of the two earthquakes in this Murcia town. The first happened at 17:05 pm with a magnitude of 4.5 on the Richter scale and the other at 18:47, with a magnitude of 5.1.

This tragic natural disaster has shown that Spain, although it is not an area of ​​high seismic activity, is not free from possible earthquakes. From what is known so far, it is difficult in the Iberian Peninsula to have earthquakes more than 8 degrees on the Richter scale. The major scale would be 6 or 7.


The major earthquake that could occur in Spain would scale as much 6 or 7.

Some areas are more at risk than others. There is a medium seismic risk in the southeast peninsula (Granada, Almeria, Alicante and Murcia) and low in the rest of the peninsula, and a high volcanic risk in La Palma and Tenerife.


The Lorca earthquake is not the first serious seismic activity that happened in Spain. Although the historical records don't show catastrophic seismic activity as on other part of the world major disasters have occurred.


More than 250 years ago there was the Lisbon earthquake, which caused 40,000 deaths. In Spain it was also noted and 2,000 people died. Another historical earthquake, such as Granada, in 1882, killed more than a thousand people. The website of the Ministry of Development lists the most destructive earthquakes in Spain, which have claimed the lives of thousands of people.


Can we predict earthquakes?

The same day that the disaster of Lorca occurred, a canard which echoed many media pointed to a supposed prophecy. It is asserted that Rome would suffer a major earthquake.


Any prediction to be considered to mobilize people and means would require a reliable and be sufficiently in advance and should provide specific data, the magnitude of the earthquake and a specific range of time in which it will be registered. No one is capable of doing that today.

No one can predict the precise day and time of an earthquake.


However, several scientific teams around the world are working to better understand these natural disasters and improve forecasting systems. Scientists have a seismic monitoring network and develop risk maps. The (IGN) National Geographic Institute under the Spanish Ministry of Public Works offers on its website data on earthquakes in the last ten days in Spain and the world, seismic reports on major events and seismicity maps of the peninsula Iberian and its surrounding areas.


To make reliable predictions, it has launched the Iberian-Mole. Its coordinator Mr. Roberto Rodriguez says it has two different observation networks (GPS and seismic stations) and the participation of 107 scientists from ten institutions. Its aim is to predict within a short period of time where and when an earthquake of certain characteristics may happen.


In Chile, a similar system to the Iberian-Mole predicted last year that there would be a major earthquake.


With the data obtained, it may issue recommendations on the areas of Spain where earthquake-resistant construction standards must be more rigorous.


How to deal with an earthquake.

Given current knowledge, the only effective measure to prevent a catastrophe is prevention. Most victims of an earthquake recorded by collapsing buildings or structures, falling objects, furniture, fire or broken gas pipes and electricity, as well as human acts themselves, due to recklessness and panic.


Experts recommend that buildings and infrastructure should take into account risk areas, and should be applied the necessary anti-seismic measures, in building design. To conduct drills and educational plans for the population, have rescue teams with specific training, etc.


I have to say that the building designed now days in Spain can withstand earthquakes of up to 7.5 degrees in the Richter scale without collapsing.


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