According to a new study by researchers from the University of Alicante, Torrevieja on the Costa Blanca is not adequately prepared for earthquakes
The famous earthquake in 1829 that basically wiped out Torrevieja meant that it was made a contingency plan with ideas on how the city would be built. But the plan was never followed. Because of property speculation and a public economy based on expansion it was forgotten what danger there is for earthquakes, says the study.
Sociologist Antonio Aledo and environmental expert Samia Sulaiman at the University of Alicante has focused on towns with a lot of tourism located in seismic active areas. Although earthquakes that one now are experiencing in Torrevieja are small, the city is, after all, one of the most earthquake-prone regions in Spain. The development of the city since the 1970s with a large and almost aimless expansion has given the city a property structure that increases the risk during major earthquakes.
The big earthquake 21 March 1829 killed 389 people and injured 209 people. In addition, 2000 homes were completely destroyed and bridges and other structures were also destroyed.
The earthquake was estimated at a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale.
In 2012 a new emergency plan was developed. The plan has been praised for being a pioneering project in the region, but according to researchers this is incorrect. It does not take into account what is known as “deep urban and socioeconomic factors” that increase vulnerability to earthquakes. For example, the lack of urban planning as a result of the tourist and building boom, and that the town during summer is “overcrowded”.
Torrevieja is being described as a city that is characterized by the huge housing expansion that preceded 1970, seasonal tourism, lack of urban planning, environmental degradation, demographic changes due to immigration, with an increasing proportion of older people. And a dubious control of the municipalities that are affected by corruption.
About 50% of Torrevieja’s residents are from abroad, which creates challenges related to language and communication. This must be taken into consideration when to inform and prepare a society against the risks associated with living in an earthquake zone. The elderly should also be seen as a more vulnerable group. Economically and socially disadvantaged areas with cheap housing solutions units, several floors and a strong densification increases vulnerability to earthquakes.
The study, made by two researchers, can be read here in its entirety in English (The unquestionability of risk: Social vulnerability and earthquake risk within at touristic destinations), in PDF format (opens in new window).