Fortunately, Spain does not usually make headlines because it is shaken by strong earthquakes. A single glance at the seismicity map produced by the National Geographic Institute is enough to understand why. Most of the Iberian Peninsula does not have red dots, which characterize the territories that are at risk of seismic accidents. However, there are some territories that are more prone to events such as the one that devastated Lorca, in Murcia, on May 11, 2021, now a decade ago. These are, above all, the communities of the Levant and the towns closest to the Pyrenees.
From Valencia to Malaga
The strip that extends between the Valencian Community and the interior of the province of Malaga is the one that accumulates the most red points throughout the entire Spanish territory. In fact, the majority of seismic accidents that occur in Spain accumulate there. Of all that territory, the ‘hot spots’ with the province of Granada, Almería, Malaga Murcia and the Vega Baja, in Alicante.
Precisely in Granada just a couple of months ago there was a succession of tremors that had several towns in the province in suspense for several days. Some of the small earthquakes exceeded 4 on the Richter scale. Fortunately, this episode of seismic activity ended without personal injury, but with damage to buildings and structures.
According to data from the National Geographic Institute, practically every day several earthquakes occur in these areas, although very few are noticed by the population. It is estimated that ‘invisible earthquakes’ account for about 90 percent of the total. However, these accidents are a very valid sign for experts to predict the arrival of stronger tremors.
After the southernmost communities of the Mediterranean Sea, the Pyrenees is the second area with the highest seismic risk in Spain. The union of two tectonic plates can largely explain this circumstance. The easternmost part of Galicia would go later in that ranking.
Italy, Iceland and Turkey They are at the head of the countries with the highest risk of suffering earthquakes in European territory. In the second level appear the seismic risk areas in Spain: the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula and the Pyrenees.
The last major earthquake on record on the continent occurred on August 24, 2016 in central Italy. Specifically, the most affected area was Amatrice, where the Richter climb exceeded 6 degrees. More than 2,500 aftershocks were also recorded in the hours afterward. In total, 296 deaths were mourned and more than 380 people were injured.
How is seismic risk measured?
The best known scale internationally is the Richter scale. It is used for earthquakes up to grade 7 since at those levels it is saturated and does not give exact values. To complement this, the Hiroo Kanamori seismological scale was implanted. Thus, the highest measurement recorded to date occurred in March 1960 in Valdivia (Chile), which exceeded 9 degrees.