Seismic risk study unveiled

By ELOISE WALTON [email protected]

An earthquake similar to the one suffered in Haiti this month could lead to 1,000 deaths, hundreds of injuries and 13,000 people homeless in the Algarve, say experts.

This news was announced during the presentation of the region’s seismic and tsunami risk study held at the University of the Algarve on January 22.

This study, carried out by the national civil protection authority with the University of the Algarve and the regional development commission (CCDR), among other entities, will enable the authorities to prevent and predict the risks of a serious accident or catastrophe, with the development of a special emergency plan.

According to Portugal’s Minister for Internal Affairs, Rui Pereira, who attended the presentation as part of his visit to the region this month, the aim is to “develop adequate policies of prevention and protection for the Algarve, quantifying the vulnerabilities to be able to estimate eventual direct damages, according to different seismic catastrophe scenarios”.

He added that a special emergency plan for the region, which will be developed using the information from the risk study, is due to be complete within six months.

During the presentation, a demonstration of the seismic scenarios simulator, which was installed earlier this month in Faro’s emergency operations centre, was also carried out.

Earthquake data such as magnitude, location of the epicentre and time of day can be inputted into the simulator to provide the emergency services with a map of critical areas with predictions of the amount of casualties and damages caused.

Meanwhile, the University of the Algarve is also involved in the development of an alert system with several European partners to provide advanced warning to the authorities and residents of coastal areas from risks caused by storms at sea.

The system will help to predict the probable consequences of a storm at sea with around three days notice.

Óscar Ferreira, coordinator of project Micore, from the centre for marine and environmental research at the University of the Algarve, said: “The system will determine whether there will be the possibility of erosion, a retreat of the coastline and material damage, among others.”

Meteorological forecasts, wave heights, coastal erosion and the morphology of the coastal area are some of the variables that will be taken into account by the system, which is to be developed using storm data from the past 50 years.

As well as Portugal’s coastline, the alert system is being developed in eight other countries: Spain, Italy, France, the UK, Belgium, Holland, Poland and Bulgaria.

“There is a tendency for increased intensity of storms in the North Atlantic, contrary to southern Europe, where there has been a slight decrease,” said Óscar Ferreira.

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