Earthquakes like Morocco’s “can happen in Portugal”

“It is important to be aware that Portugal does have a high seismic risk”

Portugal’s Secretary of State for Civil Protection has admitted what many already know: an earthquake like the one that hit Morocco on September 8, killing around 3,000 and causing widespread destruction, could very well happen in Portugal.

In an interview with CNN Portugal, Patrícia Gaspar said that people must be aware of Portugal’s high seismic risk.

“I want to draw attention to this, not to create panic or generate any discomfort, but it is important for all Portuguese, especially those living in the Lisbon metropolitan area and neighbouring municipalities, in the Algarve, and in the Azores archipelago, to be aware that Portugal does indeed have a high seismic risk, and such a situation can indeed happen,” the secretary of state said.

“It’s not so much a matter of knowing if, but of knowing when, and that we cannot predict. That is why all the work that has been done in recent years to prepare our communities, both at the school level and within various institutions, is absolutely crucial. It’s crucial that the Portuguese, especially in these specific regions, take the advice that is frequently given by Civil Protection and other entities very seriously,” she stressed.

In an attempt to ease fears, Lisbon Mayor Carlos Moedas said after the earthquake in Morocco that the capital is “extremely prepared” for the possibility of a major earthquake, and the secretary of state has confirmed that “very important preparation work” has been carried out “to mitigate the effects” of such events.

However, she also warned that “it’s important to know that an earthquake above a certain magnitude always has an impact.”

“This kind of preparation work  must be continuous; not everything is done, far from it. We have buildings that were constructed at a time when seismic construction rules were not what they are today. Today, we have a completely different legislative framework, associated with work being done at the European Union level with Eurocodes that require a certain type of construction,” she said.

Patrícia Gaspar also mentioned that mapping these buildings is “a very important task for local authorities,” describing it as “a combination of efforts involving the national level of Civil Protection, but then also involving those closest to the territory who have this obligation at the front line.”

“This work is being done not only in Lisbon but also in the Algarve and Azores regions. There is a very strong awareness today of this risk and the need to try to mitigate the impact of these events. There are events we can avoid. There are events we cannot avoid, and the only thing within our reach is to create mechanisms that can reduce the impact of these events on the population. This can be achieved from a structural perspective but also from a behavioural perspective,” said the secretary of state.

By Michael Bruxo

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