The Lorca quake: what we never knew about Spain

13 May

The 5.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Lorca on Wednesday, killing nine victims, came as a shock to the Spanish community and beyond. The tremor was felt from its epicentre in Murcia, sourthern Spain, to as far away as Madrid. A small medieval town of 90,000 inhabitants, Lorca lies near the Tercia mountain range in a region of Spain that, it transpires, is relatively prone to earthquakes. For those of us who have visited Spain but were not around to witness the last significant quake, over fifty years ago, this might come as a shock.

Zapatero inspects rubble in Lorca

The Daily Telegraph’s Fiona Govan in Madrid wrote: “Spain is at moderate risk of earthquakes. On average every 200 years an earthquake of over six on the Richter scale occurs.”

The last deadly earthquake in Spain was in 1969 when a vast quake in Cabo San Vicente, Portugal, measuring 7.8, killed seven and left 18 homes uninhabitable in Huelva. This latest earthquake was simply one in a long line of such natural disasters in Spain, dating back to 1518.

Thousands fled Lorca fearing the town may be leveled by aftershocks. Reporting the incident, The Glasgow Herald said: “Earthquakes are common in southern Spain, but they rarely result in casualties. This latest quake comes in the wake of recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand earlier this year.” Should such casualties remind Spain and its European neighbours that quakes are not limited to locations known for tectonic shift?

Today a public mass outside Lorca was televised to the nation, remembering those killed in the rubble. A modest scene, Prime Minister Zapatero, Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia attended the service which was held in a hangar normally used for agricultural fairs. Zapatero spent the days before the funeral surveying the damage; a medieval church bell tower lay in ruins and the church split in two. As the deceased from this disaster are laid to rest, let us hope it’s a long time before Spain sees another.

Image 1: BBC

Image 2: Pakistan Geo News

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