01 May, 2006

6.4M Quake Hits Northern Chile

Yesterday at about 20.06GMT, WAPMERR issued an alert that a quake with a magnitude of 6.4 had struck near the coast of Northern Chile. At the time, the alert stressed that it was an unstable solution as the earthquake could have been located directly beneath Caldera which is a sizable coastal city. If, however the earthquake was further out to sea, within the estimated epicenter error of 15 km, or at a more probable depth of 30 km, then only few or no fatalities were to be expected. The GDACS, however, has tagged this quake in Chile as green and placed it as having potentially a low humanitarian impact and the affected region as a low vulnerability to natural disasters.

According to a report by La Segunda, a Chilean newspaper, phone lines have been cut, there are no reports yet of damage or fatalities, the duration of the earthquake was felt for approximately 15 seconds and was felt the hardest at CopiapĆ³. At 01.43 am (local time), the National Office of Emergency in Chile issued follow-up bulletins on the earthquake which confirms the La Segunda report that there were no reports of damages, injuries or fatalities. The bulletin also indicated that assessment teams are visiting the affected area and basic services, hospitals and airports appeared to be functioning normally.

Additonal information followed the first alert from WAPMERR that several aftershocks and one larger event than the first one had been recorded by now (the list follows). Because some of these are located south of Caldera, this does not bode well. Detailed analysis received from WAPMERR stated that the moment tensor solution for this earthquake (USGS data) usually offers a more reliable depth estimate. "It is 8 km and the magnitude according to this data analysis is M6.7. This means it is difficult to imagine that there would be fewer than 300 fatalities and their number may exceed 2000".

The situation in Chile is currently being monitored for a SAR (Search And Rescue) response by relief teams from France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK. In aiding post-quake aid operations, UNOSAT have initiated the production of standard overview maps, population distribution and topography for use by humanitarian agencies in relief and recovery efforts.

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