10/23/2011 Turkey Quake

Updated 11/9/2011

Eastern Turkey was hit with a 7.2 M earthquake at 10:41 UTC (1:41 PM local time) 10/23/11. The Epicenter was 577 miles east of Ankara, 500 miles northwest of Tehran, Iran  and approximately 150 miles north of Mosul, Iraq. 600 people have been reported dead, over 1300 were injured, with many still missing. 2000 buildings collapsed in the quake. Another 3700 have been declared unfit for habitation. People are scared to return to their homes, for fear of the many aftershocks. There have been 1400 aftershocks with several of them greater than 5.5 M, strong enough to cause substantial damage. Temperatures are near freezing in the area and are expected to remain cold as winter sets in. An aftershock on October 25, caused panic and a riot in the Van prison as prisoners reacted to being kept indoors. A 5.7M aftershock on November 11 caused two hotels and 21 other buildings to collapse, killing 3 and injuring 100 people.

1,000 building were destroyed, including a part of a hospital in the city of Ecris, with a population of 75,000 on the shore of Lake Van, near the epicenter. Patients were being treated in the hospital's garden. Power and natural gas were knocked out for a couple of days in the city. Rescue teams arrived the day after the quake and have been hard at work digging victims from the rubble. 80 buildings collapsed in Ecris, most of them apartments buildings.  Some help arrived from neighboring countries. Turkey initially said that they were capable of responding on their own but after a couple of days they decided to accept international aid. 

In this area the Arabian Plate is pushing northward into the Eurasian Plate, raising the Caucasus mountains to the north. It is causing stress in the surrounding crust as it is squeezed between these two plates and the Anatolian Plate, which is itself being squeezed between the African and Eurasian Plates. There have been many earthquakes in this area, including the 1999 Izmet quake 600 miles to the west of this one. 17,000 people were killed in that quake.  The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake.

See also the following news stories:

*279 reported dead in Turkey earthquake; 1300 more hurt (CNN 10/24/11)
*Turkey earthquake, survivors outdoors on freezing night(BBC 10/24/11)
*Death toll rises in Turkey quake (Voice of America 10/24/11)
*Turkish Earthquake: Aftershock  'sparks jail riot' 
*Earthquake hits eastern Turkey (Aljazeera 11/10/11)

9/18/2011 Sikkim, India Quake

Updated 9/30/2011

Sikkim, in Northeastern India, was hit with a 6.9 M earthquake at 12:40 UTC (6:10 PM local time. The Epicenter was 169 miles east of Kathmandu, Nepal and approximately 500 miles east of New Delhi, India. It was felt in Kathmandu, New Delhi, Bhutan, Tibet and Bangladesh. Parliament in Nepal interrupted their session due to the quake. The quake sent people running out of buildings throughout the region, as far away as New Delhi. Buildings in Sikkim and Nepal collapsed, including a wall of the British Embassy in Kathmandu, which killed 3 people. 108 were killed and 10,000 buildings collapsed throughout the region affected. Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim state, with a population of 50,000 was hard hit. Power was out in Sikkim and the neighboring state of West Bengal, including the city of Darjeeling. Many areas were cut off by landslides in this remote, mountainous area of the Himalayas.

This quake is a result of the collision between the Indian Plate, which is moving north into the Eurasian Plate (See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.) This collision is crumpling the crust, raising the Himalayan Range. This quake is apparently took place as a result of stresses within one of the two plates. The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake.

See also the following news stories:

* Strong Quake Hit Northeastern India: 9 dead(USA Today 9/18/11))
Several Killed as Earthquake Hits India, Nepal(BBC 9/18/11)
*NE experiences strongest earthquake in 20 years (Hindustan Times 9/19/11)
*Quake Rescue Teams Scour Bhutan (BBC 9/22/11)

8/23/2011 Virginia Earthquake

Updated 8/25/2011

A 5.8M earthquake was felt in eastern Virgina, 40 miles from Richmond and 88 miles from Washington DC, on 8/23/2011 at 17:51 GMT (1:51 PM local time). The quake was felt over a wide area of the East Coast of the United States, as is typical of quakes in that region. It was one of the largest recorded quakes in that region. Because quakes are rare, there was a bigger reaction than there might have been to the same quake in another area. The energy released by the Japanese 9.0M quake was 60,000 times that released in this quake. There were aftershocks measuring M4.2 and M4.5 in the two days following the quake.

Many buildings were evacuated, including the White House, the Capitol and New York skyscrapers. Some cell phone service was disrupted and some public infrastructure, including the Holland tunnel,transit systems and airplanes were closed or delayed as a precautionary measure while they were checked for damage. It was felt as far away as Detroit. There have been no reports of deaths, although there were some injuries and some buildings sustained damage near the epicenter. Among the worst damaged buildings was the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, which had some of its pinnacles and statues broken. There was a crack in the Washington Monument. Bricks fell from some buildings and items were knocked off of store shelves.

This quake was typical of east coast quakes in that it was felt over a much wider area than a similar quake elsewhere. Earthquakes in this area are shallow and magnitudes are typically no greater than this one but the crust is denser than in the western US, so it propagates the earthquake waves better, over as much as 10 times the area as the same magnitude quake in the west. Earthquakes usually occur on the boundaries of tectonic plates that make up the Earth's crust. This area is not near a plate boundary. However, 300 - 500 million years ago, the plates were different than they are now. Faults in this area are not well understood but may be boundaries of ancient plates that have since been joined into the North American Plate. Eastern US faults are buried under newer geological formations and in places were covered by glacial till after the Ice Ages, making them difficult to study. The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake. See also the US Geological Survey (USGS) summary of one of the aftershocks for a discussion of this issue.

See also the following news stories:

* US earthquake leads to evacuation of White House(The Guardian 8/23/11))
* Aftershock rattles US east coast(BBC 8/25/11))
* Why Virginia Quake Shook Entire Coast(Live Science.com 8/23/11))

5/11/2011 Lorca, Spain Quake

Updated 5/15/2011

Southeastern Spain felt two earthquakes near the town of Lorca, 30 miles SW of Murcia. The larger one,at 5.1M caused the most damage hit at 16:47 UTC (6:47 pm local time). There was a foreshock of 4.5M. The 2nd, and larger, one was 5.1M. Several buildings in downtown Lorca were severely damaged and the streets were covered in bricks from the damaged buildings. Dozens were injured, thousands were afraid to sleep in their homes for fear of aftershocks and nine people were killed.

Lorca is a city of 90,000 in the Murcia district of southeastern Spain in Murcia Province. Murcia Province constitutes one of Spain's Autonomous Communities, a level of government that reflects Spain's various historically and culturally different regions and nationalities. Murcia Province has 1.4 million people, 500,000 of whom live in the city of Murcia, 30 miles from the quake. There are no reports of damage very far outside of Lorca. However the quake was felt as far away as Madrid, 218 miles away. A 5.1M quake is capable of significant damage near the epicenter but we would not expect to see much damage at any distance. The buildings damaged appear to have been mostly historic structures dating back to the 17th century, build without knowledge of how to protect against earthquakes. Quakes this large do occur in this area from time to time but not very frequently. A quake in 1956 killed 12 people.

This quake is a result of the motions of the African and Eurasian Plates in this vicinity. The boundary between the plates runs through the Strait of Gibraltar and extends into the Mediterranean Sea. Earthquakes in this area are shallow and magnitudes are typically no greater than this one. (See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.) The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake.

See also the following news stories:

* Lethal Double Quake Hits Spanish Town(Sky News 5/11/11))
*Spain: Earthquake rocks Lorca, Murcia, killing 10 (BBC 5/12/11) Includes dramatic film of a church belfry falling during the quake.
* Spain quake kills 10, topples buildings (AFP 5/12/11)
* Two Earthquakes Rock Southeastern Spain (New York Times 5/11/11)

3/24/11 Burma Earthquake

Updated 3/27/2011

Northern Burma was hit by a 7.0M earthquake Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 13:55 UTC (8:25 pm local time). 74 people were reported killed and 111 injured. 413 buildings were damaged and one bridge destroyed. The epicenter was 365 miles NE of Rangoon in the remote northern part of the country near the border of Laos, Thailand and China. The quake was felt as far away as Hanoi and Bangkok.

This quake follows a 5.4M quake just across the border in southern Yunaan Province in China that caused extensive damage. Initial reports were that 24 people were killed, 207 injured and over 1,000 buildings damaged in that quake.

The quake was caused by the movement of the Indian Plate NNE into the Eurasian Plate at the rate of 45mm(1.77 inches)/yr. This is the collision that has made the Himalayas the tallest mountains on earth. Burma is on the eastern edge of this zone. It is subject to earthquakes as India slides past. (See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.) The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake.

See also the following news stories:

* Death toll of Myanmar's earthquake rises to 74, 111 people injured (Xinhua 3/26/11))
* Burma earthquake hits faded drug area (Christian Science Monitor 3/24/11)

3/11/2011 Sendai, Japan Earthquake

Updated 5/14/11
The east coast of Japan was hit by a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake on March 11,2011 at 05:46UTC (2:46 pm local time), that caused major damage in the northeastern part of the country. Severe shaking lasted over 2 1/2 minutes. The epicenter was undersea off the coast of Honshu, Japan's largest island, 230 miles northeast of Tokyo, 80 miles from the city of Sendai, which sustained the worst damage. Sendai is the largest city in the area, with over 1 million people. The northeastern prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima were the worst hit. Over 300 bodies were found along the coast in that city alone immediately after the tsunami. The final number killed is estimated at about 25,000. As of May 13, 2011 the official toll is 15,019 dead, 9056 missing two months after the quake,5,282 injured,88,873 houses damaged. 440,000 people were evacuated. Two months later 100,000 were still in shelters. Damage from the quake is expected to reach $230 billion. The Japanese economy will suffer from the disaster, but as reconstruction efforts, which could last 5 years, get underway it should provide a stimulus.

Strong shaking and some damage in Tokyo was dwarfed by the damage further north. Initial relief assistance was provided by the military. A Japanese relief team that had been helping after the quake in New Zealand was called home. International teams are offering their help in rescue efforts. The US military has many bases in Japan and has mobilized resources to help. Much of the initial rescue work was done with helicopters, since many roads were impassable and many areas were submerged in seas of mud and standing water left from the tsunami. Temperatures were near or below freezing at night in the days after the quake, with many left homeless. Then it got colder and started snowing. It took days for rescue crews to reach some areas. 380,000 were living in shelters in school gymnasiums with little heat due to fuel and electricity shortages and short rations food. People remained generally calm even under very difficult circumstances. It was difficult to get supplies into these areas and the government is overwhelmed. People are being urged to leave the northeast and go to other parts of Japan but with transportation systems inoperable and little available fuel, it is unclear how large numbers can be evacuated.

According to the USGS list of the largest earthquakes, this was the 4th largest earthquake in the world since 1900. A tsunami was generated that flooded coastal areas of Japan and caused tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific. Damage from the tsunami was extensive with 30 foot waves reaching sometimes as far as 6 miles inland. There was little warning, 15 to 30 minutes, for the areas nearest the epicenter. Many of the dead and missing are believed to be from the tsunami. News cameras show a wall of water, churning with mud and debris advancing inexorably over the land, swallowing everything in its path. Fishing boats, cars, lumber, even whole houses are caught up and carried along. Once caught in the fierce currents, it is almost impossible to escape. A giant whirlpool was filmed off the coast, that dwarfed a boat caught in it. Afterwards all that was left was mud, standing water and debris that is hardly recognizable as having been a city.

Although the destruction in the quake area is very bad, it will not rival the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami for destructiveness. In that case, there were large populations living on the coast of the Indian Ocean, all of which were in range of the destructive tsunami waves. Tsunami warnings were sent throughout the Pacific and people in the Philippines, Indonesia and as far away as the west coast of the United States were evacuated from coastal areas. The tsunami waves in Hawaii were about 6 feet and caused some damage but no injuries. There was damage to boats in marinas in Santa Cruz and Crescent City, California and Seaside Oregon. One man in Crescent City was swept out to sea while he was photographing the waves at a beach during the second tsunami surge two hours after the first one hit. Crescent City was also hit hard, with 11 people killed, by the 1964 tsunami after the Anchorage, Alaska quake.

The Japanese transportation system was brought to a halt with buses and trains unable to operate. Four trains in the northeast are unaccounted for, with fears that they were swept away by the tsunami. A ship with 100 passengers was reported missing. Power was knocked out over large areas. Over 1 million people are without drinking water. Store shelves are bare as people bought what they could get and suppliers are unable to deliver more. Roads became impassable with large cracks from the quake or clogged with traffic as hundreds of thousands tried to leave the affected area. The government advised people to stay where after the quake they were if they were in a safe place. Large numbers of people were stranded in Tokyo and other cities unable to get home. many slept in shelters. Oil refineries caught fire, as were parts of the hardest hit cities. Under these circumstances, there is little that firefighters can do. Large areas of the city of Kesennuma, a city of 74,000 were burning. One third of that city was submerged. Iwate, with 23,000 people was largely destroyed. Whole villages have been reportedly washed away. Millions of people lost power and 4 days later 850,000 were still without electricity and 1.5 million still had no water.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, although this is the strongest one in recorded history there. Buildings are designed to sway, rather than collapse, with building codes reflecting the latest anti-quake techniques. The results of these efforts could be seen in Tokyo, where most buildings rode out the strong shaking without structural damage. An earthquake warning system gave a few precious seconds warning to many before the quake struck, allowing people to take cover. Two days after the quake, transportation was moving again in Tokyo and life was returning to normal. It will be a long time before the same can be said of the north.

Despite the severity of the quake, most of the deaths were from the tsunami. Building codes designed to protect against earthquakes worked very well despite the unprecedented size of this one. Many less powerful earthquakes have killed many times the number that died in this one because buildings were not built to resist them.

The scale of destruction from the tsunami was tremendous. The areas it hit were covered with mud and the debris of the cities that were inundated. One estimate said that the disaster produced a century worth of garbage. The government is struggling to figure out how to dispose of it all. There are many challenges including where to dump it all. New dump sites were established but they are filling up quickly. Nobody seems to be prepared to salvage ships that have been washed up on top of the debris of the cities. The clean up is expected to take years.

Five nuclear reactors at two power plants in Fukushima Prefecturate shut down automatically following the quake but the combination of the quake and tsunami cut off power needed to keep the cooling systems operating and disabled the backup diesel generators, which were located in the basement and flooded in the tsunami. A week after the quake, emergency crews may have a new power line in operation. This may help efforts to cool the stricken reactors. The worst hit plant is the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has 6 reactors. They have all seen serious damage to their cooling systems. The scope and strength of this quake has strained the ability to recover. In the week following the quake there were hydrogen explosions at these plants and at least 2 fires. 170,000 people in a 12 mile radius around the Fukushima plants were evacuated. Those within 19 miles were advised to stay indoors. The US government advised Americans within 50 miles to leave the area if possible, or remain inside. The government attributes the explosions to hydrogen buildup in the cooling system and denies reports of a core meltdown. However, it has become apparent that parts of the reactor cores did melt. Radiation levels outside the plant are many times the normal background level, limiting the ability of workers to bring the reactors or spent fuel under control. the greatest danger is from spent fuel stored at the plant because it is not contained as well as the reactor core. Despite heroic efforts by plant workers radiation releases continued in the weeks following the quake. In the worst case scenario, there is a danger of a meltdown of fuel in any of these reactors that would release large amounts of radiation, as bad as, or worse than Chernobyl. Iodine tablets were distributed to those nearest the plants as a precaution to ameliorate the effects of larger radiation exposure, should that occur. Iodine taken before exposure can prevent the absorption of radioactive iodine, especially important for children. There has been a run on iodine pills worldwide amid fears of large scale radiation releases, despite government statements saying that this is not necessary for people far away. Workers were flooding the cores and spent fuel with sea water in a last ditch effort to cool it down. This has led to radioactive water leaking both within the plant and escaping into the sea. In all 11 of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan have been shut down, leading to shortages of electricity, even in area that did not lose power. The accident is causing Japan to re-evaluate its heavy reliance on nuclear power. 30% of Japan's energy comes from nuclear. Power is being slowly restored to cities but smaller towns will have to wait longer. Some companies have curtailed production to conserve power. Foreign countries urged their citizens to leave Japan.

There have been frequent large aftershocks. In the 2 days following the quake there were over 85 quakes greater than 5.0 Magnitude, more than 20 over 6.0 M. After 4 days that number has climbed to over 100. Eyewitnesses reported quakes continuing so frequently that it seemed that they were continuous. These would all be considered large quakes capable of causing damage under any circumstances. The largest was 7.1 M. on March 11. The aftershocks continued, though not as frequently, for weeks. By April 7 there had been 136 aftershocks greater than 5.0 M. On April 7th there was another 7.1M aftershock. Even before the major quake there were foreshocks for a couple of days. On March 9, the same area was hit by a 7.1 M quake. This graphic animation shows the quake and aftershocks. The larger the circle, the larger the quake. It starts a few days before. Note the date and time at the bottom right.

The earthquake was the result of subduction of the Pacific Plate beneath the North American Plate. Japan is extremely prone to earthquakes because it is located at the intersection of four major tectonic plates, the Pacific Plate, The Eurasian Plate, The Phillipine Plate and the North American Plate. Despite its name, the North American Plate actually extends beyond Alaska north of the Pacific and into Siberia. An arm of the plate drops down to include northern Japan, sandwiched between the Pacific and the mainland of Asia, specifically the Russian Far East near Vladivostok, which is on the Eurasian Plate. Subduction quakes occur when plates, pieces of the earth's crust, collide, forcing one beneath the other. This type of quake has the potential to be among the largest earthquakes on earth. Generally, the continental plate will ride up over the oceanic plate in this situation. This earthquake resulted in the Japan's largest island of Honshu moving 8 feet to the east, overriding the floor of the Pacific Ocean. A large subduction quake will sometimes displace enough water when a large section of ocean floor suddenly slips under the over-riding plate to cause a tsunami. The size of the tsunami depends on the conditions at the epicenter and can be hard to predict. The destructiveness also depends on how close to populated areas the quake occurs. In this case there was large coastal populations nearby.

(See the Plate Tectonics page for a maps of the tectonic plates and more information on these processes.) The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake.

See also the following news stories:

* Nuclear emergency declared at quake-damaged reactor (USA Today 3/11/2011)
* Japan evacuates 50,000 after nuclear power plant explosion (LA Times 3/12/2011)
* Google Resources Page on the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami
* Quake clean-up continues as death toll grows (ABC Australia 3/18/11)
* Cable reaches Japan nuclear plant (BBC 3/17/2011)
* Pictures (BBC 3/11/2011)
* Japan devastated by 8.9-magnitude quake, tsunami (Washington Post 3/11/2011)
* 10K dead in Japan amid fears of nuclear meltdowns (Seattle Times 3/13/2011)
* Death toll rises, stocks plunge, foreigners flee as nuclear crisis escalates (Washington Post 3/15/2011)
* Factbox: Japan disaster in figure (Reuters 3/15/2011)
* Japan begins quake relief mission (BBC 3/11/2011)
* Japan damage could reach $235 billion, World Bank estimates (LA Times 3/21/2011)
* Strongest aftershock since tsunami rattles northeast Japan; 2 dead, widespread power outages (Washington Post 4/7/2011)
* Japan earthquake: Dealing with mountains of debris (BBC 5/14/2011)
*Listen to Japan's massive quake (The Lookout-A Y News Blog 3/18/2011)
* Sendai Tsunami through Western Eyes (Facebook)

3/10/11 Yunaan, China Quake

Updated 3/27/2011

At 04:58 UTC(11:58 AM local time) a 5.4M quake in southern Yunaan province in China, near the border with Burma caused extensive damage. It was centered 221 miles NE of Mandalay, Burma, 350 miles north of Rangoon, Burma. 25 people were killed, 250 injured and over 6,000 buildings damaged in that quake. The quake was widely felt throughout Southeast Asia. It is in the same general area as the subsequent March 24, 2011 quake centered in northern Burma.

The quake was caused by the movement of the Indian Plate NNE into the Eurasian Plate at the rate of 45mm(1.77 inches)/yr. This is the collision that has made the Himalayas the tallest mountains on earth. Burma is on the eastern edge of this zone. It is subject to earthquakes as India slides past. (See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.) The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake.

See also the following news stories:

* China earthquake kills 24 and destroys over 1,000 buildings(Christian Science Monitor 3/10/11)

2/21/11 Christchurch New Zealand Quake

Updated 2/26/2011

The city of Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by a 6.3 M earthquake Monday, February 21, 2011 at 23:51:42 UTC (12:51 pm Tuesday Feb 22, 2011 local time). Damage has been extensive, with 144 confirmed dead and 200 missing and feared dead. As many as 1/3 of the buildings in downtown Christchurch may have to be demolished due to quake damage. The quake struck in the early afternoon when the city was at its busiest. Most of the worst damage was to older brick buildings. Newer construction generally fared better. The worst casualties occured when Christchurch Cathedral, the Pyne Gould Guinness building, and the Canterbury Television (CTV) building collapsed. Among the missing at CTV are a number of students at a school housed in the building. Rescuers have been searching for survivors but now, 5 days after the quake, they are saying that they are unlikely to find any more people alive.

Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest population center with a population of 390,000. The earthquake's epicenter was only 6 miles from the city center and had a shallow focus, only about 3 miles deep. Both of these facts contributed to the large amount of damage, as did the number of older brick building, which cannot withstand large quakes. International rescue teams are aiding in the search for survivors. The city lost power and five days after the quake, 62,000 homes still have no water, while 100,000 have lost their sewer connections. 800 portable toilets hardly seem like enough meet the need and counter the threat of disease. The quake damage casts doubt on the ability of Christchurch to host the Rugby World Cup in September.

According to the USGS, this quake is actually the largest aftershock of the 7.0 M September 3, 2010 Darfield, New Zealand earthquake. The September quake caused remarkably little damage, considering its size. However buildings in Christchurch had still not been repaired when the February quake occurred. The February 21 quake was so much more damaging due to its proximity to the city of Christchurch and a shallower focus. This highlights once again, as in Haiti, the difference location can have in determining the destructiveness of a quake. Since the September earthquake there have been 6 aftershocks in Christchurch with a magnitude over 5.0. Shake maps of the September 2010 andFebruary 2011 quakes show heavy to moderate shaking over a larger area for the September quake, while the February quake had very heavy shaking right in Christcurch.

New Zealand is in a very active earthquake zone. In the 15 years between 1992 and 2007, New Zealand experienced over 30 earthquakes of magnitude 6 or more. This is because the islands of New Zealand are located on the boundary of two tectonic plates. The Pacific Plate is moving towards the Northwest. You can see this movement by looking at earthquake faults on other edges of the Pacific Plate. The San Andreas Fault in California trends towards the northwest as the Pacific Plate slides along the edge of the North American Plate. In Alaska this same northwest motion causes subduction quakes in Alaska. The 1964 Anchorage quake was one result. The arc of the Aleutian archipelago is another. Finally, the Hawaiian Islands describe a line from the northwest to the southeast showing the progress of the Pacific Plate as it has passed over a hot spot that has generated a series of volcanoes that mark its passage. Meanwhile the Australian Plate is moving towards the northeast. This plate subducts beneath the Sunda Plate, which is a small continental plate next to the larger Eurasian Plate to the north and west of New Zealand, causing the devastating Sumatra earthquakes. These two plate motions result in the Pacific Plate subducting beneath the Australian Plate. The recent earthquakes have been shallow, towards the western edge of the subduction zone. As the Pacific Plate is forced under the Australian quake it descends towards the earth's mantle and earthquakes, which occur at the boundary between the plate are deeper and stronger. In the South Island, these occur along the Alpine Fault, which is capable of quakes as strong as anywhere on earth. This fault is responsible for raising the New Zealand Alps, and indeed, the islands of New Zealand. It has not seen a major rupture since 1717 and seismologists give it a high probability of a 8.0 M within the next 40 years. The recent quakes, destructive as they have been, have not relieved the strain on this fault. The destructive effects of such a quake will be mollified because it will be deeper and further to the west, away from the major population centers.

(See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.) The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake. The New Zealand Earthquake Information Page is also loaded with information

See also the following news stories:

* Google Search Page - New Zealand Earthquake 2011

* Third of Christchurch buildings 'could face demolition' (BBC 2/26/11)

*New Zealand earthquake toll surges to 145 dead (Montreal Gazette 2/26/11)

*New Zealand – Earthquake Fact Sheet #1, Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 (USAID Reliefweb 2/25/11)