Portuguese volcanic island hit by multiple earthquakes draws up evacuation plan
Authorities on a Portuguese volcanic island in the mid-Atlantic hit by thousands of small earthquakes in recent days are drawing up plans to evacuate people should the situation worsen.
Since Saturday, around 2,000 earthquakes have been recorded in Sao Jorge in the Azores archipelago, Luis Silveira, the mayor of Velas, one of the island’s municipalities, told reporters. The quakes, ranging in magnitude from 1.6 to 3.3, are feared to trigger a stronger tremor or volcanic eruption, the region’s seismo-volcanic monitoring center CIVISA said.
The small earthquakes, which have caused no damage so far, were reported along the Manadas Island volcanic fissure, which last erupted in 1808. Silveira said those hospitalized or in nursing homes in Velas were transferred to the town of Calheta, on the other side of the island. He said that the civil parishes of Velas were also preparing to transfer people with reduced mobility.
Evacuation plans for the rest of the population to Calheta or other islands would only be activated if necessary, he said, explaining that authorities would tell people where to go and how to get there. . Sao Jorge, one of the nine islands that make up the Azores, is home to around 8,400 people and is part of the central group of the archipelago, which includes the popular tourist destinations of Faial and Pico, which are also volcanic.
“We recommend people have a backpack prepared with the bare minimum, like a change of clothes, medicine and food,” Silveira said. He said the army and air force were ready to help and a navy vessel was on its way. The Portuguese Red Cross sends beds to the island.
The sudden increase in seismic activity is reminiscent of earthquakes detected before the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma last year, some 1,400 km (870 miles) southeast of the Azores. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Twitter that he was monitoring the situation and that the state would provide any resources deemed necessary.
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