Azores suffers “seismic crisis” that “could last months”: 300 shocks since 3am

Monday February 12 has seen the Azorean island of São Miguel hit by a wave of low density earthquakes.

Starting just before 3am, reports suggest the little island has already suffered as many as 300 tremors.

Right now, meteorologists have no idea where this is going, though they stress populations should remain calm.

Geophysicist Miguel Miranda, president of sea and atmosphere institute IPMA, calls it a “seismic crisis” that could last “days or months”, with different magnitudes and intensities.

So far, the largest shock came around 6am, measuring 3.2 on the Richter Scale.

Talking to television reporters, IPMA seismologists have agreed this is ‘not normal’.

Indeed, 2018 has been altogether abnormal from an earthquake perspective, with onshore rattling coming thick and fast (click here).

The spectre of a “large quake” is always at the back of people’s minds (due to the Great Earthquake of 1755 which marked Portugal’s history and subsequent development), though the bottom line today is “let’s hope this just blows over”.

Meantime, advice to local populations is being sent out by firefighters and the archipelago’s seismo-volcanic information centre.

As experts have explained, the shocks are being generated by a volcanic fault that is ‘moving’.

Earthquakes are much more common around the Azores than they are, for example, on land on national territory – but as Observador explained recently, the latest onshore quakes in the Alentejo have come from “pressure” that the African tectonic plate is exercising on the Iberian microplate.

In the Azores, it’s simply an issue of ‘normal’ plate movements suddenly entering a seismic crisis.

It doesn’t mean a “catastrophic scenario”, said one IPMA specialist interviewed by SIC television late this morning, but then again, no one can be sure what it means.

For now, this is a literal translation of advice sent out by authorities:

● Stay calm and expect replicas;
● Do not light matches or lighters as there could be a gas leak;
● Check if your home has suffered any damage and get out immediately if you feel it is no longer safe;
● If you are worried about gas, water or electrical damage, disconnect supplies immediately;
● Do not use elevators;
● Check the validity of your family’s first aid kit;
● See if anyone has been hurt and needs medical attention;
● Look out for ruptured electricity cables. Avoid injuries by wearing adequate clothing;
● Clean any flammable liquid that may have been spilt;
● Release any domestic animals as they can look after themselves;
● Keep away from the beaches as there could be a tidal wave (tsunami);
● Turn on the radio, listen carefully to recommendations and do not contribute to spreading rumours;
● Follow the advice of authorities on the ground, they are there to help you;
● As soon as you can, verify the validity of your home and car insurance and certify whether you have cover for seismic phenomena.

Updates have warned people that they must be prepared for a situation that could leave them “autonomous” for a period of up to 24 hours.

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