On the afternoon of June 23, 2001 at 20:33 GMT (15:33 local time) a 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck southern Peru. The epicenter was 110 miles (180 km) SSE of Puquio, Peru,120 miles (190 km) W of Arequipa, Peru , 200 miles (325 km) SSW of Cuzco, Peru and, 375 miles (600 km) SE of LIMA, Peru. 102 people have been confirmed dead with 1,368 injuries and 46,470 estimated homeless according to Peru's Civil Defense Institute. The biggest city in the area is Arequipa, Peru's second largest. Other cities that were hard hit include Moquegua and Tacna. Portions of Bolivia and Chile also were affected with relief efforts also ongoing there. Communications following the quake have been hampered by damaged roads, mudslides and downed electric and phone lines.
Arequipa is known for beautiful colonial architecture. Many of these buildings have been severely damaged, including the cathedral, which was originally built in 1656. One of its steeples fell and the other was severely damaged. Traffic has been restricted in the central section of the city because of fears that the vibrations could cause further collapse.
Witnesses said that the ground made huge waves during the quake, which lasted over 1 minute. A tsunami caused by the quake drowned 39 people in a coastal village but tsunami warnings for the Pacific were withdrawn with no damage elsewhere.
Earthquakes over 8 Magnitude are known as "Great" Earthquakes and are capable of largescale devastation. This quake would have been much more damaging in a more heavily populated area.
The Earthquake occurred in the Nazca Tectonic Plate just off the coast. The Naca Plate and the South American Plate are moving towards eachother. At this point the Nazca Plate is just starting to descend under the South American Plate. This quake was considered shallow, only being about 20 mi (33 km) deep. As the Nazca Plate moves east it descends deeper and deeper until it hits the earth's mantle, where the heat and pressure are enough to melt and absorb it. Magma rises from this point to fuel the Andes' volcanoes. As you move east from the coast, earthquakes originate deeper and deeper in the descending plate. (See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.)
See also the following news stories: