April 2016 – GEOLOGY – A series of powerful earthquakes which struck Asia and South America in the past week could be followed by a ‘mega’ quake in the near future, a scientist has claimed. On Thursday and yesterday, two earthquakes struck Japan, killing at least 41 people, causing landslides and widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure. Today, a 6.1 magnitude quake struck southeast of the Pacific island nation of Tonga, with no immediate reports of damage.
‘And if they delay, the strain accumulated during the centuries provokes more catastrophic mega earthquakes.’ In addition to the four major earthquakes to have struck since Thursday, last week there were also shakes in the Philippines, Vanuatu and Myanmar.
All of the earthquakes have occurred in countries straddling the so-called Ring of Fire. This is a horseshoe-shaped series of trenches spanning the Pacific Ocean where tectonic plates are shifting and seismic and volcanic activity is common. The U.S. Geological Survey, an independent agency which monitors natural hazards such as earthquakes, says ‘mega’ earthquakes are rare, but not impossible.
It says there is no fault line – the areas where shifting plates that make up the earth’s crusts meet – is known which is capable of generating a magnitude 10 earthquake. However, scientists cannot completely discount a ‘mega’ earthquake because they’ve only been measuring seismic activity for the past 100 years. Meanwhile, Japanese rescue teams were today scouring the splintered remains of buildings destroyed by the shakes as time ran out for finding survivors.
The 7.3 magnitude tremor which struck yesterday, killing at least 32 people, injured another thousand and caused widespread damage. In the village of Minamiaso, 11 people were ‘out of contact’, said public broadcaster NHK. Rescuers pulled 10 students out of a collapsed university apartment in the same settlement yesterday. The country’s second earthquake hit on the same day as a powerful 7.8 magnitude shake rocked coastal Ecuador. It was the largest earthquake to hit the country for several decades and a state of emergency was declared for four of the worst-affected regions. Officials said at least 77 people were killed, over 588 injured and the damage stretched for hundreds of miles to the capital and other major cities. –Daily Mail