'The earthquake of Andalucía' devastated La Axarquía in 1884
Malaga has experience of earthquakes. In fact, during the 19th century the province was rocked by what is known as ‘The earthquake of Andalucía’ which, although it occurred on 25th December 1884 in Arenas del Rey (Granada), reached grade 10 (EMS-98) at its epicentre and caused severe damage in the whole of La Axarquía.
“The earthquake almost completely destroyed some villages, such as Periana, and in other places, like Vélez-Malaga, new districts had to be built afterwards. Three places were reduced to rubble: the hamlet of Guaro, in Periana, and Ventas de Zafarraya and Arenas del Rey, in Granada province,” says Francisco Montoro Fernández, author of the book 'Terremotos de la Axarquía. 25 de diciembre de 1884. (El caso de Vélez-Málaga)', in which he relates that 745 people were killed and 1,485 injured by the earthquake.
News of the earthquakes – there were more than 100 aftershocks in the following days – spread around the world and about 40 countries sent donations. A total of three million pesetas were raised to help those who had been affected.
Although the documents from Vélez Town Hall about the year 1885 have disappeared, in his book Francisco Montoro refers to detailed documentation from other sources which give the reader a good idea of the effects the earthquake had on La Axarquía. “In the book, there is some very interesting information about the intensity of the disaster,” says the author.
In the case of Vélez-Malaga 1,291 properties were affected, including the bell tower of the Iglesia del Carmen (a church which no longer exists) which collapsed onto neighbouring houses.
According to the author, the Town Hall Secretary added a margin note to the minutes of a council meeting which had taken place on 21st December, saying “Major earthquake occurred in this town on 25th December 1884 at 9 p.m. There were further oscillations and trepidations, of greater or lesser intensity, at intervals throughout the month of February 1885, and others in the early days of March, but from the 10th of that month onwards no more were felt. The earthquakes continued. On 11th April at 5 o’clock in the morning there was a strong trepidation. In May, nothing. Hardly anything to mention until 13th June at 9.08 p.m. A strong shaking at 2 o’clock in the morning of 30th July. They continued in August. The town suffered losses amounting to 8,000,000 pesetas.”
Among those paid compensation by the Royal Commission which was set up to evaluate the damage and control the assistance was Antonio Ortega Escalona, the popular singer known as Juan Breva, who received 60 pesetas.
'Terremotos en la Axarquía' includes parts of the reports from the president of the Malaga Society of Sciences, Domingo de Oruela y Duarte; Spanish geologist José McPherson; Infantry officer Eduardo Feliu Boada, and members of the Official Committee which was set up by the government, as well as records of the earthquake from the Charitable Society of Cuba and the Royal Commission.source suringenglish