Just a day after a massive 8.2 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Chile near Iquique, the coastal area of the South American nation was once again rocked by an earthquake, this one measuring 7.8. The first quake, which generated a tsunami and resulted in the death of six and damage along the coastline, also resulted in the escape of approximately 300 female inmates at a prison in Iquique.
While the April 1 Chile earthquake was centered around 60 miles off the coast, the most recent quake was a mere 14 miles from the coast. Yesterday, the National Geographic reported that the April 1 Chile quake was possibly a foreshock for a larger quake to come. “It probably has not released all of the stored-up energy on the subduction earthquake fault in northern Chile,” said Cornell geologist Rick Allmendinger. “For the sake of all of our friends in the region, we’re hoping that there isn’t a bigger one still to come.”
“There is a section of the South American tectonic plate boundary off Chile that has not ruptured since 1877, when an earthquake of magnitude 8 to 8.9 struck,” said Allmendinger. “That indicates a high probability that part of that plate has stored up considerable seismic energy.” Citing similar behavior that occurred over the course of two weeks in 2011 in Tohoku, Japan, Allmendinger affirmed that scientists are greatly concerned that these major quakes are foreshocks.
In the wake of today’s 7.8 Chile earthquake, another tsunami warning has been issued and the population along the coastline has once again been given the order to evacuate. Nearly a million people had been ordered to evacuate to higher ground for the first earthquake. The new warning comes just hours after the original warning had been lifted.
Recent earthquakes in the Los Angeles area have also sparked debate about the Big One and the Ring of Fire, which is a term used to describe the coastal areas surrounding the Pacific Ocean. The Ring of Fire has been the location for approximately 90% of the world’s recorded earthquakes. The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan was also located on the Ring of Fire. “[It] affects South America, the California coast, Alaska, Japan, the Philippines. Basically any places around the Pacific Rim are at risk,” said Kate Hutton, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology.
With no way for scientists to predict earthquakes, people are left with nothing to do but wait at the mercy of Mother Nature. The tsunami warning is currently in effect for Chile and Peru.