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The Lorca Earthquakes : One year and counting

Wed 9th May 2012
The Lorca Earthquakes : One year and counting

It is almost one year to the day – the 11th of May 2011 – since two earthquakes devastated the town of Lorca in Murcia.

Shortly after 5pm an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 on the richter scale struck the town with a population of around 100'000 residents, causing damage to a number of buildings and bringing dozens of residents into the streets.

Moments later a 2nd larger earthquake of 5.2 struck, causing many of the already damaged structures to come crashing to the streets.

The falling debris and masonry, together with collapsing buildings caused the deaths of 9 locals' as well as resulting in the destruction of many properties.

Despite being an area known for its frequency of tremors and minor quakes caused by the European and North-African plates brushing past each other, the result was the worst earthquake seen in Spain for more than 100 years.

The outpouring of support from local, national and international charities and organisations was heart warming and typical of the Spanish people, despite the country being in the grip of one of the worst economic times in living memory.

But what left a nasty taste in the mouth was the way in which the incident was seized upon by local, regional and national politicians as an election campaigning opportunity.

With Spain's local and regional elections being held on the 23rd of May, and the national elections the following November, it was perhaps to be expected that the community would be awash with pledges of support from all sides in a bid to secure election success.

So what promises have been honoured, and which have been reneged upon ?

Many of the most severely damaged properties have now been demolished – the La Viña being the worst affected, click HERE to see images of how the area currently looks.

Additionally, there are still more than 2,000 people still living temporary accommodation around the city, a number of which are in mobile homes erected on sports grounds.

Despite the promises, many families have suffered huge financial losses, with most insurance settlements being way below the original purchase price of the property, due in part to the crash in the market. Many are also finding that the settlements do not cover outstanding mortgage repayments.

Because of this shortfall in compensation payments many properties with superficial damage are still in a state of disrepair, due to the owners lack of funds to finance any repair.

Furthermore, an opportunity to provide much needed positions of employment in the area have been cast aside, as the authorities have brought in a number of contractors to repair and rebuild the city from outside the area, meaning that the funds that the regional and central governments have made available has been sent elsewhere.

Another noted observation by many of the residents of the town has been how the first of the few building s to be demolished and rebuilt has been the barracks of the Guardia Civil.

Yet still, one year after the event, streets are still closed for hours on end whilst emergency services and surveyors inspect the structural integrity of many building in and around the city – often with little regard for motorists, pedestrians and those trying to go about their daily lives.

Many local residents have also speculated on the future of a particularly large group of properties in the ‘San Fernando' are of the city. The residents of which have been forced to leave their homes due to reasons of public safety, yet not one apartment block has been demolished. Whilst the local government have cited reasons for being a lack of forthcoming funds from the regional and central government, many believe that the area is being considered for redevelopment, leaving local residents out of pocket and homeless.

One year ago, the subject of Lorca was at the forefront of election campaigns. Now it seems, it is a subject to swept under the carpet.

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