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‘Very strong’ earthquake felt – Elvas schools evacuated

earthquakeAn earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale, described as “very strong” by the IPMA, occurred today, 12 kilometres under Arraiolos in Portugal and was felt in numerous locations in the Spanish region of Extremadura, including Mérida, Badajoz and Cáceres.

The earthquake was logged at 11:51, with a second event four minutes later measuring 2.5 on the scale.

There are no reports of any injuries or anything more than light damage to a few buildings.

Schools in Elvas were evacuated, following perfectly an earthquake drill that the area’s schools have prepared for.

“We have no record of damage,” said the Elvas fire chief, noting that the ‘Terra Treme’ action plan has been followed. This is a training exercise organised annually by the National Civil Protection Authority that shows people how best people should act before, during and after an earthquake.

Offshore, there has been increased seismic activity logged in the Açores and Sines areas with Portugal always at risk of an earthquake and tsunami similar to the devastating events of 1755.

The Portuguese Society of Earthquake Engineering warns that in Portugal, ‘not even the hospitals are prepared for such an earthquake and a serious event will kill tens of thousands of people because the country is not prepared for this kind of catastrophe.’

“It could be tomorrow, it could be the day after tomorrow. It is wrong to think that it will only be in 2755 “

In 1755, Portugal suffered an earthquake of magnitude 8.5 to 9, a similar strength to the one that caused the tsunami in Japan.

Earthquakes are close to impossible to predict and there is no reason why a tremor of equal magnitude could not be repeated at any moment. “It could be tomorrow, it could be the day after tomorrow. It is wrong to think that it will only be in 2755,” says geophysicist Maria Ana Viana-Baptista.

“Knowing the city of Lisbon, I fear that we may have a marked risk in more than 50% of the buildings,” adds civil engineer João Appleton.

The Algarve and Alentejo coastlines, as well as Greater Lisbon, will be seriously affected by a tsunami with few buildings able to resist the destructive force of such a natural disaster, with a notable exception being the Assembly of the Republic.