The earthquake that hit the small town of Lorca, in the Mediterranean region of Murcia, on Wednesday has left nine people dead and almost 300 injured. Lorca is one of the most earthquake-prone areas in Spain, according to experts. A tremor of this nature was, therefore something that could be expected, but it was impossible to pinpoint when. The first quake registered 4.5 on the Richter scale, and the second reached 5.2. But the devastation they have caused was less to do with their magnitude and more with the poor state of part of the town's physical infrastructure, damaged by previous tremors.
In 2002, new legislation was introduced that required municipal and state authorities to take measures to reduce the risk of damage to buildings and other infrastructures from earthquakes. Since then, little has been done. Admittedly, there are few lessons to be learned from such an exceptional event as an earthquake, but one of them is the need for other areas at risk to now act in accordance with the law.
There may not be much likelihood of another earthquake such as Wednesday's, but that does not mean that preventive measures are any less important. Less than a year ago, the province of Granada was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.1. Damage was limited, mainly due to the fact the origin of the tremor was deep underground. In contrast, Wednesday's occurred close to the surface of the earth.
The risks are there, and as such, measures must be taken to limit the impact of quakes.
It was correctly decided to suspend campaigning for the municipal and regional elections set for May 22, allowing different levels of the local and central government to devote their attention and efforts to coordinating rescue teams and providing temporary accommodation and food to those who have been made homeless and are currently sleeping in the open. The decision by the main political parties to work together in the face of this disaster also sends out the right message to the electorate, a message that Spanish politics is much in need of. So far, the efforts of the authorities to help those affected have been efficient and appropriate.
With just over a week to go before the regional and municipal elections, promises of future aid will be in abundance. We can only hope that the two main political parties are able to continue working for the greater good, and do not use this terrible event as an excuse to criticize each other at the expense of the people of Lorca.