25 January 2016: The day the earth moved

Repair work is carried out to a church tower in Melilla, damaged in the earthquake.
Repair work is carried out to a church tower in Melilla, damaged in the earthquake. / SUR
  • The Costa del Sol suffered its biggest earthquake in 60 years, although damage was limited to cracks in walls and falling plaster

If you were in the Malaga area exactly three years ago today and thought the earth moved - that's because it did.

It was 5.22am on a Monday morning when people were woken by an earthquake of magnitude 6.3, the biggest to hit the area in more than 60 years.

In Malaga and the Costa del Sol, especially on the east side, some people rushed out onto their balconies or even the streets when they felt their buildings sway for around 30 seconds. Many more stayed inside but reached for their phones; social media was immediately buzzing with earthquake stories and questions.

In Malaga province, there were around 400 calls made to the 112 emergency hotline that Monday morning, but few were real emergencies. Most callers, scared after feeling their buildings sway, were simply requesting information.

The worst damage on mainland Spain occurred in the Axarquía area, east of Malaga. Several cracks appeared in buildings and plaster crumbled from some façades onto the street below. Some locals reported furniture toppling over and plaster falling from the ceiling.

North Africa, however, felt the quake more. The epicentre was in the Alboran Sea off the coast of Morocco, 62 kilometres from Al Hoceïma, where a 12-year-old epileptic child was confirmed dead after suffering a heart attack following a panic attack. Another person in the Moroccan town was injured after jumping out of a second floor window, victim of panic. This, after all, had been the scene of the deadly earthquake which claimed the lives of nearly 600 people in 2004.

There were no more fatalities reported in 2016, however, although material damage was significant in the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

A number of buildings suffered structural damage and more than 20 people were treated for minor injuries. Power cuts also affected the area during the night.

The quake followed a smaller tremor, with a magnitude of 4.8, that had been felt in the province of Malaga the previous Thursday. Dozens of aftershocks were registered in the area during the days following the tremor.

You have to go back as far as 29 March 1954 to find an earthquake of such a scale to hit the province of Malaga.