Senior politicians are ignoring the danger of possible earthquakes and tremors, according to the president of the Portuguese Society of Seismic Engineering. Speaking at a conference in Lisbon, Sousa Oliveira said the country’s leaders were “aware” of the seismic risks in Portugal but “were taking no action”. Oliveira claims that certain areas of the country present a significant seismic risk, particularly the Algarve, Alentejo, Azores, Lisbon and Vale do Tejo regions. He also questioned the quality of Portuguese building construction, saying: “There are sufficient laws stipulating construction guidelines, but control is not always effective.” He also called for a so-called “identity ticket” for new constructions and the structural reinforcement of old buildings, particularly schools and hospitals.
Oliveira said government complacency stems from the fact that, throughout the 20th century, only one significant Portuguese earthquake – in 1909 – occurred, leading to the misguided assumption that “these things only happen to others”. Some European organisations, particularly those in Greece, Turkey and Italy, have tried to alert the European Commission to the need for action regarding the possibility of a major quake, but Oliveira stressed that further work is needed in Portugal to raise public awareness. In particular, the population needs to be better informed about seismic activity and its consequences.