Is the earth moving?

This topic seemed a natural follow-up to my post about the weather.  When we were considering whether to retire to Spain, the word earthquake (or terremoto) never came up.  The advantages of moving here were many, and pretty obvious: good weather (though estate agents tend to gloss over the cold winters!), relaxed lifestyle and cheaper cost of living – especially as we were living in London then. 

Our specific requirements included the wish to be close to a large town - with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants – and also good transport links.  However we didn’t want to be living in an expat urbanisation on the coast, as we wanted to experience the “real” Spain. 

When we were first taken to Jumilla we discovered that, as well as ticking all the right boxes, Jumilla had a special attraction: it is the ciudad del vino!  It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.  We were going to retire to Spain and specifically to the city of wine, Jumilla.  It never crossed our minds to ask whether Jumilla was in an earthquake zone.

Ciudad del vino - y terremotos

Apparently Granada, Malaga and Almeria provinces are the main seismic risk areas in Spain, but Murcia region isn’t far behind.  Nobody thought to mention this to us, and obviously we never thought to ask the question.

We had been living in Jumilla for two or three months when I experienced my first earthquake.  We were living in a rented apartment at the time, on the fifth floor of a small block.  John had gone to the Vodafone shop to sort out a problem with his mobile phone and I was on my own in the apartment.  Suddenly I felt the whole building move sideways, then back again.  Pausing only to grab my keys, I was out of the door and racing down the stairs. 

 The door to one of the two flats on the third floor was open, and our neighbour was peering out.  “Terremoto?”  I asked.  “Si!” he replied. With a whimper I continued on my way, as he laughed at my reaction.   When I reached the safety of the street, I was surprised to see that life was carrying on as normal. 

John didn’t believe me at first, as he hadn’t felt anything in the Vodafone shop, however he read the report in the local paper a few days later and apparently I wasn’t the only person in Jumilla to have been shaken up.

A year later, after we had moved into our own apartment on the edge of town, I experienced my second earthquake and this time John shared it with me.  I was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of the bedroom window rattling.  I realised that John was awake too and asked him if he thought it had been an earthquake.  He agreed with me, but as there was no further tremor we decided to stay put, turn over and try to go back to sleep.

We met our friend Nataliya the following day and mentioned it to her.  “Oh, this is an earthquake zone,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone.  “Now you tell us!” we responded.  We were slightly reassured by the fact that we live in a modern block, where a seimic study had been undertaken, and by Nataliya saying that though earthquakes occur here frequently, they are usually minor ones with little or no damage.

Our third year living here, and our third earthquake, but this time it had tragic consequences for the people of Lorca.  We were sitting at home relaxing,  having just returned from the shops.  John was watching the news on Spanish TV, while I was checking emails, when he suddenly said “Look, there’s been an earthquake in Lorca and it seems to be pretty bad.” As I turned in my chair, it started vibrating.  We looked at each other and both said “That was an earthquake!” just as the TV cameras showed the church tower collapsing.  It was a surreal moment and it took us a few seconds to realise that, as the first earthquake was being reported on, a second one had struck.  It was horrifying watching the story unfolding on TV and knowing that a lovely city in the south of our region had been devastated, with the loss of ten lives.

Benefit concert - just before the downpour

Jumillanos are compassionate people: they raised funds for Haiti after the earthquake last year and naturally they were quick to offer help to their neighbours, with many volunteers going to work there.  A benefit concert was held last month, “De la mano por Lorca”, with various local bands and dance groups performing, which raised around 7,000 € in spite of the bad weather that night.  Tomorrow we are going to a smaller concert, with just one local band, which will also be raising funds for Lorca.

Fortunately, as Nataliya had told us, most earthquakes in this area are small ones and cause little damage.  Ironically, we heard on TV a couple of nights ago that there had been an earthquake in the English Channel, so it can happen wherever in the world you decide to live.

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