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Earthquakes In Mallorca

Mallorca has a bit of a history of seismic tremors, believe it or not. Last Saturday, for example, a minor earthquake with a magnitude of 3.2 on the Richter scale and with a depth of 60 km struck the Illes Balears. Some 200 alarmed residents made frantic phone calls to the emergency telephone lines, especially from Palma, Calvià, Llucmajor, Marratxí, Montuïri, Esporles and Campos. The quake’s epicentre was situated in the Badia de Palma, off the coast of Calvià. The good news is that no casualties or damage were reported. Emergency services warned that aftershocks could follow, although earthquakes in Spain tend not to be all that severe.

It was not always that way, I am afraid. Since the year 1650, more than 55 seismic tremors were registered in the Archipiélago Balear, and some of them more intense than last Saturday’s.

Palma suffered a relatively strong earthquake in 1660. There was a rather damaging earthquake in Mallorca in 1851, when large parts of Palma’s Cathedral came tumbling down, causing also some damage in Marratxí, Campos and Santanyí. In 1763, the parish church in Santa Maria del Camí caved in after a hefty eruption. In 1827, the church of Sineu was damaged by an earthquake. The strongest earthquake in Mallorca during the last 100 years occurred in 1919 and was felt in the Pla de Mallorca and in particular, in Montuïri. Recently, Campos suffered another bad shake, in 1995. A few years ago, in 2003, a far away earthquake in Algeria with a magnitude of 7 sent repercussive vibrations to Mallorca: I remember feeling them in Felanitx, not knowing at the time what they were. Some local people came running out of their buildings in Felanitx, quite worried. That quake had died down to a magnitude of 4 when it reverberated in Mallorca, but still. A minor tremor was felt in Marratxí in 2007.

But do not worry. The thing about earthquakes in Mallorca is that the African and Eurasian continental plates push against each other ever so slowly and gently, at a speed of about 6 mm per year. Most commonly, that clash manifests itself in the Pyrenees, themselves forged, folded and formed by the ancient clash of the two plates; and in the south-west of the Iberian peninsula, which lies closest to the fault line. Spain is in no way as active as Southern Italy, Greece, Turkey or North Africa, where the full weight of Africa is in the process of shearing under Eurasia. I got that information from the website, in case you wanted to inquire further.

Since 2004, six municipalities in Mallorca were instructed by the Govern Balear to draw up an Earthquake Emergency Plan, in particular pertaining to the construction of buildings. The towns are Palma, Marratxí, Santa Maria del Camí, Esporles, Bunyola and Valldemossa. I assume that the respective ajuntaments have complied with that request, but if you live in one of those places you might want to find out more about it yourself.

Spain’s Instituto Geográfico Nacional has an interesting website too. The image (below) was borrowed from it, showing in excess of 50 tremors during the last 10 days in Spain, the Iberian peninsula and in North Africa, with an intensity above 1.5 on the Richter scale. The last one recorded occurred near Caravaca, not far from Murcia, last night at 21h20, with an intensity of 1.7.

The photo (top) was borrowed from the Internet. Thanks are due to flickr and Scrawb. The image (bottom) was also borrowed from the Internet. Thanks are due to the Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

Muchas gracias.

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February 2010


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