(ORDO NEWS) — Authorities on a Portuguese island in the North Atlantic are preparing for a possible evacuation of the local population as six consecutive days of tremors heighten fears of a possible strong earthquake or volcanic eruption.
The president of the Azores regional government said on Thursday that airlines are increasing flights to São Jorge, home to about 8,300 people, for those who prefer to leave now.
Scientists say it is difficult to predict the effects of persistent, albeit low-intensity, seismic activity.
“Anything can happen, nothing can happen,” Azores President José Manuel Boliiro told reporters in a TV commentary during a visit to the island.
Authorities in the island municipality of Velas, the epicenter of more than 2,000 small earthquakes since March 19, are taking elderly people, who may find it difficult to quickly evacuate to another part of the island, as a precautionary measure.
Emergency services have set up safe traffic corridors and temporary housing for evacuees on the eastern side of the island in case they are needed. About 3,000 people live in Velas.
Any public alerts were to be broadcast on local radio, social media or church bells, officials said.
São Jorge is one of the nine islands that make up the Azores, which are located about 1,500 kilometers (about 1,000 miles) west of the Portuguese mainland.
The island is about 58 km (36 miles) long and 6 km (nearly four miles) across at its widest point. The economy of the island is based on fishing and agriculture.
São Jorge is a volcanic island that witnessed eruptions in 1580 and 1808. It is reported that both eruptions resulted in casualties, but there is no reliable information from that time.
The last land based volcanic eruption in the Azores occurred in 1957 on the island of Faial. An earthquake on the same island in 1998 killed 10 people.
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