The Algarve trembled

By: Natasha Smith

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IN THE wake of the earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, which occurred on February 12, at 10.36am, the Algarve and other regions reflect on the worst tremor in decades.

The earthquake at the beginning of the week lasted around 30 seconds and the effects were felt across the Algarve, as well as Évora, Beja, Santarém, Leiria, Setúbal and Lisbon. According to the Meteorological Institute, it was the largest earthquake experienced on the Portuguese mainland in the last 38 years. Other recent tremors have only registered 4.5 on the Richter scale.

The epicentre was located around 160km south west of Cape St Vincent, at Gorringe Bank which, incidentally, is believed to be the epicentre of the 1755 earthquake that killed around 100,000 people and destroyed much of Lisbon. Seismologists believe the 1755 earthquake would have measured nine on the Richter scale.

Ripples of the earthquake on Monday were felt in the Algarve at around five, and further north in the Alentejo and Lisbon at four, on the Mercalli intensity scale, which quantifies the effects of tremors on land. The effects were was also felt in Morocco and Spain.

Aftershocks occurred 14 minutes after the earthquake and at 1.30pm, but because they were recorded at 2.5 on the Richter, few people felt them.

There were no reports of injuries sustained during the earthquake and there was only one incidence of structural damage to a building, where a wall collapsed from the force of the tremor in Nazaré, north of Lisbon.

Schools in the Algarve were evacuated calmly under practiced earthquake procedures. Many offices were also abandoned when items began moving and falling to the floor. Emergency services were inundated with thousands of phone calls, but in almost every case, the callers were requesting information rather than medical attention.

Unlike the 1755 earthquake and another in 1969, which caused tsunamis, there have been no significant changes in the ocean topography. There were fears that huge waves could form as a result of the tremor, but experts were quick to quell this.


Tony Purbrook, Tunes

It was substantial and greater than the usual ones around here.

Linda King, Salir

I heard a roar and thought it was an aeroplane in trouble. The ground and the cabinets began to shake and I ran outside. I checked the house, but did not see any cracks.

Mike Reeve of

AFPOP, Portimão

We felt it in the office and, at first, I thought a truck had hit the building. We were only contacted by one person, who said that cracks had appeared in the walls of their home, but no other structural damage problems were reported.

Shirley Emilio of

Crystal Clear, Pêra

It was the strongest I have ever felt. I initially thought it was a huge truck rumbling by, but then I realised what it was as I felt my chair vibrating. I then started noticing everyone else’s reaction and a few people were saying “Oh my God, it’s an earthquake”.

Liliana Martins, Faro

I was in bed as I was feeling ill when I heard and felt it. At first, I thought the builders were doing some work on the roof. I then realised what was happening and my heart began to race. I felt scared as my apartment is on the third floor and afterwards I was worried that there would be aftershocks.

Elsa Belo, Faro

I was in a classroom at the primary school in Patacão where I teach. I didn’t really feel anything, but my colleague was in a classroom, whose structure is weaker, felt it strongly and the children were told to go underneath their desks and they were all a little scared.

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