Experts on earthquake in Chile: Magnitude-8.2 quake not 'the bi - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Experts on earthquake in Chile: Magnitude-8.2 quake not 'the big one'

Posted: Updated:
Fishing boats washed ashore by a small tsunami, sit in Caleta Riquelme, adjacent to the port, in the northern town of Iquique, Chile, after magnitude 8.2 earthqauke struck the northen coast of Chile, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Cristian Viveros) Fishing boats washed ashore by a small tsunami, sit in Caleta Riquelme, adjacent to the port, in the northern town of Iquique, Chile, after magnitude 8.2 earthqauke struck the northen coast of Chile, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Cristian Viveros)
Fishing boats lie damaged by a small tsunami, in the northern town of Iquique, Chile, after magnitude 8.2 earthqauke struck the northen coast of Chile, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Cristian Viveros) Fishing boats lie damaged by a small tsunami, in the northern town of Iquique, Chile, after magnitude 8.2 earthqauke struck the northen coast of Chile, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Cristian Viveros)

IQUIQUE, Chile (AP) — Authorities in northern Chile discovered surprisingly light damage and just six reported deaths Wednesday from a magnitude-8.2 quake — a remarkably low toll for such a powerful shift in the Earth's crust.

President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency and was reviewing the damage in Iquique, a northern coastal city of nearly 200,000 people near where the quake struck in the Pacific Ocean. A planeload of 100 anti-riot police was deployed along with 300 soldiers to prevent looting and round up escaped prisoners.

Thousands of people evacuated from low-lying areas were returning home after a spending a long night outside due to the threat of a tsunami. The government's mandatory order to leave the coast was spread through cellphone text messages and Twitter, and reinforced by blaring sirens in neighborhoods where people regularly practice earthquake drills.

The tsunami lifted fishing boats onto city streets and sunk others in the port of Iquique, but no other major damage from the sea was apparent. Chile's entire coast was initially subject to the mandatory evacuation order, which lasted nearly 10 hours in coastal communities closest to the offshore epicenter.

The shaking that began at 8:46 p.m. Tuesday also touched off landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power for thousands, damaged an airport and started fires that destroyed several businesses. Some homes made of adobe were destroyed in Arica, another city close to the quake's offshore epicenter.

Shaky cellphone videos taken by people eating dinner show light fixtures swaying, furniture shaking and people running to safety, pulling their children under restaurant tables, running for the exits and shouting to turn off natural gas connections.

Mining in Chile, which is the world's top copper producing nation, was not affected, although world prices for the red metal jumped as the quake raised supply concerns because most of the Chilean mining industry is in the northern regions.

About 300 inmates escaped from a women's prison in the city of Iquique, forcing the closure of the border with Peru. Several dozen were quickly captured, officials said.

Bachelet, who just returned to the presidency three weeks ago, waited five hours after the quake struck to address her nation. It was not lost on many Chileans that the last time she presided over a major quake, days before the end of her 2006-10 term, her emergency preparedness office prematurely waved off a tsunami danger. Most of the 500 dead from that magnitude-8.8 tremor survived the shaking, only to be caught in killer waves in a disaster that destroyed 220,000 homes and washed away large parts of many coastal communities.

"The country has done a good job of confronting the emergency. I call on everyone to stay calm and follow the authorities' instructions," Bachelet tweeted after Tuesday night's temblor.

She put her interior minister in direct charge of coordinating the emergency response, and announced that schools would be suspended in evacuated areas while authorities assessed the damage.

The only U.S. impact might be higher waves Wednesday for Hawaii's swimmers and surfers, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor was centered in the Pacific Ocean 61 miles (99 kilometers) northwest from coastal Iquique. More than 20 significant aftershocks followed, including one of magnitude 6.2.

The quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia's capital about 290 miles (470 kilometers) away was the equivalent of a magnitude-4.5 tremor, authorities there said.

But Tuesday night's quake was not the big one seismologists expect eventually.

"Could be tomorrow, could be in 50 years; we do not know when it's going to occur. But the key point here is that this magnitude-8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting for this area. We're actually still expecting potentially an even larger earthquake," said Mike Simons, a seismologist at the Geological Survey.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries because just off the coast, the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera to ever-higher altitudes. Nowhere along this fault is the pressure greater than in far northern Chile, an area known as the "Iquique seismic gap".

The USGS says the seismic gap last saw a major quake in 1877, when a magnitude-8.8 quake unleashed a tsunami that caused major damage along the Chile-Peru coast and fatalities as far away as Hawaii and Japan. Another quake of similar force hit just north of the area in 1868.

"This is the one remaining gap that hasn't had an earthquake in the last 140 years," said Simons. "We know these two plates come together at about 6, 7 centimeters a year, and if you multiply that by 140 years then the plates should have moved about 11 meters along the fault, and you can make an estimate of the size of earthquake we expect here."

The latest activity began with a strong magnitude-6.7 quake on March 16 that caused more than 100,000 people to briefly evacuate low-lying areas. Hundreds of smaller quakes followed in the weeks since, keeping people on edge.

___

Luis Andres Henao reported from Santiago. Also contributing to this report were Eva Vergara in Santiago, Michael Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru.

__

Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao

  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • 32 teens escape from Nashville detention center

    32 teens escape from Nashville detention center

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 11:02 AM EDT2014-09-02 15:02:36 GMT
    A spokesman says more than 30 teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center and 17 are still being sought.More >>
    Thirty-two teens escaped from a Nashville youth detention center by crawling under a weak spot in a fence late Monday, and 10 of them were still on the run Tuesday, a spokesman said.More >>
  • Halliburton reaches $1.1Billion oil spill settlement

    Halliburton reaches $1.1Billion oil spill settlement

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 10:11 AM EDT2014-09-02 14:11:01 GMT
    Halliburton says it has agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a substantial portion of plaintiff claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The settlement, which is subject to court approval, will be paid into a trust until appeals are resolved over the next two years.More >>
    Halliburton says it has agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a substantial portion of plaintiff claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The settlement, which is subject to court approval, will be paid into a trust until appeals are resolved over the next two years.
    More >>
  • Gas prices should be lower by Halloween

    Gas prices should be lower by Halloween

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 9:38 AM EDT2014-09-02 13:38:56 GMT
    Everyday, GasBuddy surveys 550 gas stations in Birmingham, and it has found the average retail price of gas in Birmingham has dropped by 1.4-cents a gallon in the past seven-days. The average was $3.21 a gallon yesterday. The national average has increased to $3.43 a gallon."With the summer driving season behind us, motorists can look forward to a national average for gasoline that soon resumes its decline," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Falling demand and an imp...More >>
    Everyday, GasBuddy surveys 550 gas stations in Birmingham, and it has found the average retail price of gas in Birmingham has dropped by 1.4-cents a gallon in the past seven-days. The average was $3.21 a gallon yesterday. The national average has increased to $3.43 a gallon."With the summer driving season behind us, motorists can look forward to a national average for gasoline that soon resumes its decline," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Falling demand and an imp...More >>
  • UPDATE: Birmingham Police investigating homicide in Ensley

    UPDATE: Birmingham Police investigating homicide in Ensley

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 8:53 AM EDT2014-09-02 12:53:05 GMT
    One person dead, one injured in shooting in EnsleyMore >>
    One person dead, one injured in shooting in Ensley
    More >>
  • Birmingham Skyline to be Lit Teal for Cancer Awareness

    Birmingham Skyline to be Lit Teal for Cancer Awareness

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 8:39 AM EDT2014-09-02 12:39:42 GMT
    Raising awareness to the symptoms of gynecologic cancers is a very important mission and could ultimately save women's lives. Three Birmingham organizations — the CanSurvive GYN Cancer Support Group, the Laura Crandall Brown Ovarian Cancer Foundation, and the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation — are partnering to do just that with their “A State of Teal” campaign.More >>
    Raising awareness to the symptoms of gynecologic cancers is a very important mission and could ultimately save women's lives. Three Birmingham organizations — the CanSurvive GYN Cancer Support Group, the Laura Crandall Brown Ovarian Cancer Foundation, and the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation — are partnering to do just that with their “A State of Teal” campaign.
    More >>
  • Two-story home destroyed in overnight fire

    Two-story home destroyed in overnight fire

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 7:11 AM EDT2014-09-02 11:11:07 GMT
    Fire destroys two-story home on Letson Farm Trail in McCalla.More >>
    Fire destroys two-story home on Letson Farm Trail in McCalla.
    More >>
  • Saban: Bama's QB competition continues

    Saban: Bama's QB competition continues

    Monday, September 1 2014 10:26 PM EDT2014-09-02 02:26:09 GMT
    Alabama still has competition for the starting job at quarterback. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban says both Blake Sims and Jake Coker will play Saturday against Florida Atlantic. He says he hasn't determined how the rotation will work for No. 2 Alabama.More >>
    Alabama still has competition for the starting job at quarterback. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban says both Blake Sims and Jake Coker will play Saturday against Florida Atlantic. He says he hasn't determined how the rotation will work for No. 2 Alabama.
    More >>
  • Last day for parking under I-20-59 bridges downtown

    Last day for parking under I-20-59 bridges downtown

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:48 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:48:58 GMT
    Starting Tuesday, drivers won't be able to park underneath the I-20/59 bridges in downtown Birmingham.Around 400 spaces will be eliminated. It's due to safety concerns stemming from the aging overpass that will undergo repairs.Some call these parking spaces convenient, well shaded, valuable and without them.Robert Langston says, "It's kind of concerning because you need all the parking around here."Charlie Gamble says, "I think it's a mistake, especially when they have a big event." "We picni...More >>
    Starting Tuesday, drivers won't be able to park underneath the I-20/59 bridges in downtown Birmingham.Around 400 spaces will be eliminated. It's due to safety concerns stemming from the aging overpass that will undergo repairs.Some call these parking spaces convenient, well shaded, valuable and without them.Robert Langston says, "It's kind of concerning because you need all the parking around here."Charlie Gamble says, "I think it's a mistake, especially when they have a big event." "We picni...More >>