SHARE
COPY LINK

EARTHQUAKE

‘1,600 buildings destroyed?’ What could happen if the Swiss canton of Valais is hit by a big earthquake?

Nearly 800 dead, 1,600 buildings destroyed, and 119,000 people become homeless. This is the "worst-case" result of a big earthquake hitting the Swiss canton of Valais according to natural disaster experts.

'1,600 buildings destroyed?' What could happen if the Swiss canton of Valais is hit by a big earthquake?
The Swiss city of Sion in the canton of Valais. Photo: Depositphotos

More than 200 tremors have shaken the canton in early November, and the authorities predict a more sizeable earthquake will hit the area at some point in the coming years or decades.

In a worst case scenario natural disaster experts in Valais believe a 6.5 magnitude earthquake striking between the cities of Sion and Sierre could leave 800 dead, 1,600 buildings destroyed and 119,000 people homeless, according to Thursday’s “Le Nouvelliste” newspaper 

And if this extreme scenario can statistically occur every 475 years, an earthquake of lower magnitude, around 6 on the Richter scale, is likely to occur in Valais in the coming decades, experts say.

According to “Le Nouvelliste”, the canton’s “weak point” is its housing.

Only 10 to 20 percent of the buildings meet the seismic standards established in 2004. But the vast majority were built before this date.

“That does not mean that these buildings will collapse at the slightest jolt, but only that we have doubts about their resistance”, an expert told Le Nouvelliste.

According to the Cantonal Concept Preparation and Response in the Event of an Earthquake (COCPITT), it would take “no less than three generations” for all of Valais structures to be able to withstand a major earthquake.

Meanwhile, the authorities have prioritized public buildings, especially those with high concentrations of people and those serving vital functions, such as hospitals.

While these cantonal buildings of high importance have all been “treated and analysed”, this is not the case for buildings which the canton is renting and whose upgrades are not within its competence, for instance schools.

And the same goes for privately-owned buildings.

“Communes and private individuals are responsible for their constructions. But the law does not require that old buildings be brought up to standard, except in case of renovation”, the cantonal architect Philippe Venetz told Le Nouvelliste.


 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

EARTHQUAKE

Earthquakes in Spain: What you need to know about the tremors around Granada

A string of mild earthquakes shook southern Spain overnight following weeks of strong seismic activity in the Granada area, prompting the premier to call for calm on Wednesday.

Earthquakes in Spain: What you need to know about the tremors around Granada
Dozens of quakes have hit the zone around Granada in recent days. Source: Source: IGN

Three of them had a magnitude of between 4 and 4.5, Spain's National Geographical Institute (IGN) said on Twitter.

“Various earthquakes shook Granada again overnight which has worried thousands of people. Please stay calm and follow the instructions of the emergency services,” tweeted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.   

Many images posted online showed residents out in the street in the middle of the night, wearing pyjamas and coats, despite the coronavirus curfew.

 

Since December 1st, a total of 281 shallow quakes have hit the area around Granada, of which eight had a magnitude of more than 3.0, an IGN statement said on Tuesday.

Of that number, 41 were felt by the population.   

Another quake on Saturday in the same area had a magnitude of 4.4, causing cracks in walls and throwing objects to the ground, it said.   

The interactive map above shows the location and strength of each quake to hit the zone in recent days. Source: IGN

“It's a worrying situation, I understand people's fears,” Granada Mayor Luis Salvador told Spain's public television on Wednesday, calling for calm.   

“All the information we have indicates that although they are many and continuous, that is what prevents a more intense and devastating episode.”   

The IGN said such seismic activity was “common in this area”, flagging it as one of the most seismically active regions of the Iberian Peninsula which experiences “numerous surface earthquakes of low to moderate magnitude, and occasionally with significant intensity”.

The map below produced by the Spanish government shows the risk of seismic activity across Spain. 

Emergency services in Andalusia urged calm and issued guidance for what to do in an earthquake. The tips include seeking refuge beneath a heavy table if inside and if you have to leave the house, avoid running or using the elevator. In the street be careful of danger from falling electrical cables and falling masonary and if driving, park the car and stay put.

 The regional government warned people to be careful of fake news circulating, including a false message that the region had called a state of emergency in expectation of a major quake.

 

But in a tweet from the emergency services of Andalusia, it did advise people to be prepared and have an emergency pack ready just in case.

 

SHOW COMMENTS