Is Torrevieja in danger of an earthquake? [current tremors in Spain].

On 22 September 2022, an earthquake of 2.7 on the Richter scale occurred near Torrevieja.

Is this a frequent occurrence? Check out the map of recent earthquakes in Spain.

Spanish earth shakes once a day

Not everyone knows that vast areas of the Iberian Peninsula are part of a ‘hot zone’ of seismic activity due to the increasing proximity of tectonic plates, the impact this has on fault lines and the specific characteristics of the terrain

Is Torrevieja in danger of an earthquake? Map of seismic activity in Spain, source: Nationale Geographic Institute

Torrevieja earthquake

389 fatalities and 377 injured, not counting the massive destruction – this is the balance of the earthquake near Torrevieja, which almost levelled the city on 21 March 1829 at 6.10pm, reaching a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale.

Although the town most affected that day was Almoradi, the quake went down in history as the ‘Torrevieja Earthquake’ because of the closest fault.

Torrevieja lies in the area of 3 faults that are still seismically active today: Benejuzar-Benijofar, Guardamar del Segura and precisely Torrevieja. The quake also caused the coast of Alicante province to collapse by 10 metres at the time. Nearly 3,000 homes were completely destroyed and almost 2,400 were severely damaged.

Could the tragedy have been foreseen? Between 13 September 1828 and the fateful day of March 1829, a total of more than 200 tremors were recorded. But the technological possibilities of the time did not allow for early warnings and evacuation of the region’s inhabitants.

Two earthquakes in Spain – Costa Blanca becomes country’s worst hit region, source: The Olive Press

Earthquake warning system

In 2007, the Topo-Iberia project was set up in Spain to create a network of 80 seismological stations throughout the country, each within 60km of each other. They record and analyse all shocks and tremors, both surface and from within the earth. The research also looks at previous quakes that have hit the Iberian Peninsula. Of course, it is impossible to know the source of the catastrophe if only just in 1829, but the new project is also intended to help researchers to type out the exact locations of particularly vulnerable areas and to prevent them.

Earthquakes in the city of Torrevieja and the immediate surroundings occur very frequently, almost every week. Fortunately, most of them are not felt or noticeable. The last recorded quake was a few days ago, at 01:39 at night on 6 May 2022, with a magnitude of just 1.4 on the Richter scale. The epicentre of the quake was Lake La Mata.

Most of the time we don’t feel the quakes because they don’t have the strength. The stronger, more significant ones were recorded a year ago near Alcoy – strength 3.3, Guardamar – 2.6 and Jacarilla – 2.9, two years ago Algorfa – 2.4, Bigastro – 3.0 and three years ago Guardamar del Segura – 3.3, Abanilla – 4.0 and again Bigastro – 2.8.

Experts from the Cartographic Institute of Valencia have produced a map of seismological activity in the region, covering the whole of Vega Baja. It turns out that the most vulnerable regions are precisely the south of Alicante province. This map is intended to be used by local authorities and rapid response services to work out and anticipate further tremors, and to quickly prevent their potential effects. So far, the recorded tremors are not a reason to panic, according to experts, but at the same time they do not rule out a repeat of history.

The tremors and quakes recorded recently in the Torrevieja region indicate that we cannot rule out an earthquake of the same magnitude or stronger than the one of 1829 in the near future.

One hundred earthquakes a year in Alicante province

Every year, the Costa Blanca region, and more specifically the province of Alicante, records around a hundred earthquakes a year, or a tremor every four days. The emergency services undergo appropriate training and simulations to protect the inhabitants of the city of Torrevieja and the surrounding area in the event of an earthquake with a magnitude of up to 6 on the Richter scale. Amongst others, the following are used for the exercises: data from August 2018, when tremors affected the town of Crevillent, as well as San Miguel de Salinas and partly the town of Torrevieja.

According to official figures, earthquakes in Spain with a magnitude greater than 7 on the Richter scale occur every 150-175 years, shocks with a magnitude of more than 6 happen once every 30 years, more than 5 every 10 months, more than 4 once every 22 days, more than 3 every 40 hours and more than 2 every 15 hours.

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