Archive for the ‘Natural disasters’ Category

The disaster of Lake Sanabria

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Interesting documentary narrating the tragic events of 9th January 1949 when a dam upstream of Lake Sanabria, the largest in lake in Spain, burst. A wall of water swept down the Tera Valley and engulfed the village of Ribadelago. Around 100 people were killed. The Francoist authorities covered up the report on the defective construction of the dam.

More on Sanabria including contemporary news report by Time Magazine (iberianature) “One night last week all was quiet in Ribadelago. In the tavern men were playing cards. At the church Father Plácido Esteban-Gonzalez had just arrived on his motor scooter from the provincial capital of Zamora. An electrician named Rey was working late in his shop. Shortly after midnight the lights in the village flickered out. At the tavern, irritated cardplayers lit candles, went on with their game. Suddenly, a distant, muffled roar was heard..Read

Earthquakes in the Iberian Peninsula

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I came acrosss this interesting map from the Instituto Geográfico Nacional  of earthquakes in the Iberian Peninsula in the last ten days equal to above 1.5. As the image is a feed, what you’re seeing is updated (every day I think). Click here for a list of earthquakes with details of location and intensity. More on earthquakes in Spain

earthquakes iberia

Breeding shags down 60% in Parque Nacional de las Islas Atlánticas due to Prestige

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

The breeding population of shags (cormorán moñudoPhalacrocórax aristotelis) has fallen 60% in the Parque Nacional de las Islas Atlánticas as a result of the Prestige oil disaster. Numbers have dropped from 1500 pairs before the slick in 2002 to 350 (2003-2007) in the Cies Islands. Seabird populations in the United Kingdom have also been affected by the Prestige. The article notes the fall of guillemot numbers on the Isle of Skomer in Wales. (SEO) The shag is catalogued as Endangered in the Atlantic and Vulnerable in the Mediterranean according to the Libro Rojo de las Aves de España.

Gran Canaria and Tenerife fires controlled

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

It appears the Gran Canaria and Tenerife fires are now control, and much less surface area has been burnt than originally claimed. The latest figures talk of 8.000 ha burnt on Gran Canaria and 3,000 on Tenerife (El Pais). One of the worst affected areas is the Reserva Natural de Inagua on Gran Canaria.

Tenerife president Ricardo Melchior noted “Hemos tenido suerte dentro de la catástrofe porque no ha afectado a la zona de flora endémica y esperamos tenerlo recuperado en breve”

Icod Vinos

Icod de Los Vinos, Tenerife, August 2007. El Pais

Blue chaffinch threatened by Gran Canary fire

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

The pine forest habitat of the sub-species of the blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea polatzeki), found only on Gran Canaria has been decimated by this week’s fire. Until several days ago just 250 of these birds survived on the island. 95% of these birds lived in the Pinewoods of Inagua, Ojeda y Pajonales, precisely where the blaze first broke out. In fact the first people to evacuated were the researchers studying the bird. These researchers have stressed the importance of rebuilding drinking holes. The healthier population of the blue chaffinch on Tenerife seems to be less affected. SEO and follow sub links.

Blue chaffinch photo

Blue chaffinch photo from SEO

Tellingly, the EU Action plan for the Blue chaffinch warned several years that “Forest fires have in the past played an important role in the destruction of Gran Canaria’s pinewoods. At present, a fire in one of the critical Blue Chaffinch areas could have catastrophic results due to the small areas and population involved.”

They also note “The Blue Chaffinch Fringilla teydea is endemic to the Canary Islands and comprises two subspecies, one found on Tenerife (F. t. teydea) and the other on Gran Canaria (F. t. polatzeki). Its habitat is Canary pine Pinus canariensis woodland which is listed in Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive. Although there has not been a census of the Tenerife population, its situation is thought to be stable, while the estimated population on Gran Canaria is 185–260 birds (Moreno 1991), which means that the latter subspecies is classified as Endangered both nationally and internationally.”


Canaries fire 2 Nasa satellite image

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Image from Nasa of the fire on Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Somewhere between a third and a half of Gran Canary’s forest has been burnt.

Nasa satellite Canary Islands Fire

Canaries fire

Monday, July 30th, 2007

The scourge of Spanish summer fires are upon us again with this fire in La Alsandara, Tejeda on Gran Canaria, which has so far burnt more than 20,000 hectares of pine forest. A forest fire guard whose contract was about to run out, and who originally raised the alarm, has confessed to starting the fire and has been arrested. Forest guards are frequently accused of starting fires to guarantee work for themselves. A second fire is also raging on Tenerife. 13,000 people have been evacuated.(El Pais here)

More on forest fires

BBC report here

“The fires have burnt at least 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres) of land on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Spain’s Environment Minister Cristina Narbona called a state of “maximum alert” and ordered more water-bombing planes to help douse the fires. Hundreds of firefighters are working with planes to quell the blaze. On Saturday, police arrested a forest ranger who admitted to starting one of the fires. The 37-year-old man told police his job contract was about to expire and he wanted to keep working, according to the AP news agency.

Local officials said that 5,200 people had been taken to safety on Gran Canaria and at least 5,700 people were evacuated from homes in Tenerife as the four-day blaze continued to burn.

Hazards Previously, dozens of people had been evacuated from seven areas since Friday. Paulino Rivero, head of the regional government said: “The rugged landscape of these islands makes firefighting very complicated, except from the air. “But while there is a lot of wind and very high temperatures, helicopters generally cannot operate.” A spokesman for Gran Canaria’s authorities said fires were burning on four fronts but attention was being focused on two in the central Fataga area. He added that only two helicopters were able to drop water there because of the “terrible” wind. The fire has damaged 65% of the Palmitos bird sanctuary park. There are fears that toucans and other exotic birds may have been killed. A spokeswoman from Tenerife’s island authorities said some 300 members of fire and other emergency services were fighting the blazes, with the support of 34 lorries, four helicopters and a water-bomber airplane.

Meanwhile, officials in southern Portugal said a major forest fire that broke out on Monday had now been brought under control.” (BBC)

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake took place on 1st November 1755. Estimated by modern geologists as approaching magnitude 9 on the Richter Scale, it is one of the most destructive and deadly earthquakes in history, possibly killing between 60,000 and 100,000 people. Another 10 000 were killed in Morocco, along with large numbers living on the coast of Andalucia. The quake was followed by a tsunami which rushed up engulfed the harbour and rushed up the Tagus and a fire, resulting in the almost-total destruction of Lisbon and profoundly disrupting the country’s eighteenth-century colonial ambitions.

The event was widely discussed by European Enlightenment philosophers, and inspired major developments in thinking, and also signalled the birth of modern seismology.

Lisbon in flames with a tsunami overwhelming the ships in the harbor (1755 engraving)

1755 Lisbon earthquake

1755 Lisbon earthquake

1755 German copperplate image, “The Ruins of Lisbon. Survivors camp in a (rather fanciful) tent city outside the city of Lisbon, following the November 1, 1755 earthquake. The image shows criminal activity and general mayhem, as well as the hanging of quake survivors under constabulary supervision. Priests are present, one holding a crucifix, one possibly a prayer book, so appear to be giving last rites to persons being hanged. ” Wikipedia

See also

Tsunamis in Spain

earthquakes in Spain

Tsunamis in Iberia

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

I put together this short piece on Tsunamis in Portugal and Spain