Southern Atlantic coast of Spain is at risk of tsunami

Southern Atlantic coast of Spain is at risk of tsunami

A RESEARCHER has warned that the southern Atlantic coast of Spain is at risk of a tsunami and cities like Huelva and Cadiz need an emergency plan put in place.

Ignacio Aguirre an expert on natural risks at the Environmental Hydraulics Institute of Cantabria said: “We don’t pay the necessary attention to areas that are threatened by the probability of tsunamis, such as southern Spain.”

He made the statement in a talk called ‘Tsunamis’ at the ‘Science and experience, geological risks and society’ seminar which was held at the University of Cantabria.

He warned that the south of Spain and the east of the Mediterranean is actively seismic and is therefore at risk of suffering tsunamis.

However, it should be pointed out that there is no greater risk of tsunamis now then there has ever been. In Spain the most serious one happened in 1755 when an estimated 2,200 people perished between Cadiz and Huelva. The last ones recorded were in 1969 and 2003 in the Balearic Islands.

Aguirre’s point is that due to the huge destructive potential of tsunamis, governments must have strategies ready before they occur. He said: “We must have a knowledge of the real risk that exists, a mapping of these risks to see which areas may be affected and from there we must begin to instruct political managers and society in general, so that they have knowledge of the tsunami risk and lives can be saved.”

The Cantabrian researcher added: “Knowledge is very important and there are two fundamental strategies in the case of tsunamis: planning for evacuation before it occurs, which requires analysis and mapping of risk, and early warning systems, with protocols for these warnings to reach the population.

In Spain, there is currently a tsunami warning centre, the National Geographic Institute, which issues warnings to the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Emergencies, but there is no protocol to directly warn the population.

Should the worst happen, a tsunami could be sweeping into Cadiz and Huelva with just 15 minutes warning, and the population would not know what to do.

Since the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia an early warning system has been created for the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, and the northwest Atlantic and Mediterranean.

In Spain there has been a basic guideline for Autonomous communities to plan against the risk of tsunamis since 2015, and a state plan is in the final phase of approval.