Portugal’s Meteorological Institute, the Instituto de Meteorologia, has confirmed that an earthquake, which occurred at 2.16pm on Monday, was felt all over Portugal from Faro to Guimarães, but the tremors were felt most clearly in the Algarve region. The earthquake’s epicentre was located 117 kilometres south west of Cape St. Vincent, with an intensity measuring 5.4 on the Richter Scale. In Lisbon we are told that the intensity was a little lower at 4.5. Despite the 112 emergency telephone number being jammed with panic calls, there have been no reports of any damage or personal injuries. The Instituto de Meteorologia has also announced that “there is no cause for alarm”.
A list of effects to be expected at each level of the Richter Scale has been published by the Institute and at level four, it warns of vibrating objects and walls creaking. At level five, as experienced in Faro, the chart explains that quakes would easily be felt by people and that objects could fall. Should the tremors have reached the next level of six on the Richter Scale, we could have expected furniture to move and cracks to appear in the walls.
Safety and contingency plans
If the epicentre had been located closer to the continent, there could have been significant damage and, at the moment, only Lisbon has an emergency plan in place in the event of an earthquake. The plan for the Algarve has been under development since 1998, but is, apparently, awaiting further funds to allow its continuation. However, Carlos Rebelo, Professor of Civil Engineering at the Faculty for Science and Technology at the University of Coimbra, said recently that Portugal has anti-quake regulations “of the highest world level” in place for new buildings.
The great earthquake of 1755
Portugal experienced a mammoth earthquake on November 1, 1755 (All Saints Day) which all but destroyed Lisbon. Had the Richter Scale been in place at the time, the tremors would have registered a massive 8.9. An estimated 60,000 people died in the quake, which is said to have been felt as far away as Scotland and Norway.