By Humphrey Carter THE worst tsunami on record hit the Mediterranean in the early 13th century killing over 1.5 million people and while experts are closing watching volcanic activity in the Canary Islands, the Balearics has been declared at “low to medium” risk of a seaquake.

The Balearic government's emergency committee has recently completed an earthquake risk study of the region and believes that Majorca would have 20 minutes to react in the event of a seaquake.

The studies were carried out at the start of last month and the biggest threat is posed by a major quake off the Algerian coast.
Only a few years ago a quake in the area caused sea levels in the Balearics to drop suddenly before rising again.
On May 23, 2003 a seaquake which measured 5.8 on the Richter scale happened 50 kilometres east of the Algerian coast.
Thousands of people were killed in Algeria and Ibiza was worst hit in the Balearics with severe flooding causing millions of euros worth of damage and police ordering people off the beaches with megaphones. Minor damage was also caused to over 60 boats in the port of Mahon where two-meter high waves hit the harbour. As a result, Minorca was the first of the islands to start drawing up an Emergency Plan. Nevertheless, the conclusion to the recent study is that the Balearics faces a low to medium threat of a tsunami and that it is practically impossible the region would be hit by one as large as that in South East Asia.

However, in the event of a seaquake, the Balearic government would immediately inform all of the port and marinas followed by the Local Police forces.
If a seaquake happened in the summer, the primary objective would be to get everybody off the beaches in the high risk areas in the space of 20 minutes.

But while the threat posed by the Algerian quake is low to medium, the emergency centres had taken into full account that a seaquake further afield, such as the Canaries, could also pose a major threat with the huge waves gaining momentum as they travel into the Mediterranean.

The areas at highest risk in Majorca are Palma, Marratxi, Santa Maria, Santa Eugenia and Bunyola. The bay of Palma is certain to be hit worst in the event of a seaquake off the coast of Algeria.

Much greater attention is now expected to be paid to the careful monitoring of “hot spots” in Europe and world wide as experts try to stay one step ahead of the next major seaquake.