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The effects of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami on the Algarve region, southern Portugal

David K. Chester

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake (magnitude c. 8-5Mw) killed between 15,000 and 20,000 people, of whom an estimated 1020 lived in the Algarve. The earthquake cost Portugal between c.32 and 48% of its Gross Domestic Product, probably making it financially the greatest natural catastrophe to have affected western Europe. Using a combination of archival information and data collected in the field, this article discusses: the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunami on the economy, society and major settlements in the Algarve; and recovery of the region in the years that followed. Today the Algarve is one of Europe’s principal tourist destinations and a region vital to the Portuguese economy. The 1755 earthquake was not a one-off event and the Algarve, which now houses a resident population of over 400,000 – a figure that more than doubles with tourists in the summer months – is highly exposed to earthquakes and tsunamis. An earthquake of similar size (minimum estimated recurrence 614±105 years), is viewed as a worse-case future scenario. Although strict building codes which apply to the whole country were pioneered in Portugal following the 1755 earthquake, and have been revised on many occasions, there is a recognised need for more detailed hazard maps and emergency plans for the Algarve. These have already been produced for Lisbon and in the Algarve a start has been made, where a tsunami risk map has recently been completed for Portimão concelho (i.e. county).

Price: £2.49 / FREE to subscribers

Page Numbers: 78-90

Volume: 93

Issue: 2

Date: Summer 2008

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