Major Earthquakes Raise Concerns in Pacific Earthquake Zones

Major Earthquakes Raise Concerns in Pacific Earthquake Zones
Photo Credit:AP/ 達志影像

Translated and compiled by Bing-sheng Lee

On April 16, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador at 11:58 p.m. (local time), claiming more than 270 lives and leaving over 2,500 people injured so far.

The epicenter of the quake was 16 miles southeast of Muisne, a sparsely populated coastal town, but the massive quake devastated the entire country.

Many people are still missing or waiting for rescue in the rubble.

According to the New York Times, following the earthquake, Ecuador President Rafael Correa announced a national emergency and a state of emergency in six of the country’s 24 provinces.

Ecuador has been hit by several major earthquakes in the past, but the latest one, which some say lasted more than a minute and had a depth of nearly 12 miles, is considered as one of the strongest since the 1970s.

Multiple aftershocks, some as powerful as magnitude 5.6, were recorded later.

The New York Times reports that around 4,600 police officers and 10,400 military members have been engaged in the rescue work with hundreds of doctors, health professionals and humanitarian workers moving to the most affected places.

Civil society organizations have also discussed with government officials how to response to the catastrophe.

“We’re trying to see what they need most and where,” said Carlos Hernandez, a representative of Save the Children International in Quito.

The earthquake in Ecuador happened less than a week after a series of big tremors hit Japan on April 14 and 16.

The first quake, measuring 6.2 on the Richter Scale, struck Kumamoto City at 9.26 p.m. on April 14. The second quake, a more powerful and intense one, took place at 1.25 a.m. on April 16. It was measured at 7.3 in magnitude.

At least 42 have been confirmed dead and more than 3,000 were injured in the earthquakes. The quake led to landslides around Minamiaso, a village in Kumamoto prefecture and more than 240,000 people were asked to evacuate.

Many people have lost contact with their friends and families living in the affected areas and the number of missing people is expected to rise.

In response to the disaster, the Japanese government has sent about 25,000 soldiers, rescue workers, and health professionals into the more serious areas.

The Guardian reports that throughout the affected area, 270,000 people do not have access to water and gas while 35,000 are still without electricity.

In the wake of the catastrophe, Taiwan is one of many countries around the world that have offered aid to Japan. On April 15, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that the government has donated NT$ 3 million (approximately US$ 92,750). Later, President Ma Ying-jeou ordered a further US$ 500,000 be given to Japan for rebuilding the affected areas.

Taiwanese political parties, government officials, humanitarian organizations and the general public provided other aids as well. On April 16, Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, expressed gratitude for the help from Taiwan.

No Taiwanese were injured or killed in the earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.

Experts speculate the connection between the recent earthquakes

The epicenters of the major earthquakes in the previous week are both located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is defined by the National Geographic Society as “a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activity, or earthquakes, around the edges of the Pacific Ocean."

Some geologists and scientists have started to speculate that there is a connection between the two catastrophic incidents, based on the Pacific Ring of Fire theory and because they happened unusually close to each other.

Roger Bilham, a seismologist at the University of Colorado, told The Daily Express, “The current conditions might trigger at least four earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude.”

“And if they delay, the strain accumulated during the centuries provokes more catastrophic mega earthquakes,” Bilham added.

In addition to the major earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador, there were also shakes in the Philippines, Vanuatu and Myanmar earlier this month.

New Tang Dynasty Television reports that some geologists suggest that the Circum-Pacific seismic zone and Alpine-Himalayan seismic zone might have already become active.

Manabu Takahashi, professor at the Research Center for the Pan-Pacific Civilization at Ritsumeikan University, says that the earthquakes that struck Kumamoto City could be a precursor for big earthquakes in the ocean trench in the South China Sea. If a major earthquake really takes place in the ocean trench, it might jeopardize Taiwan and other islands in East Asia.

Yet, several geology experts do not agree with the speculations, saying that the connections between the earthquakes happening in this month are overblown.

In an interview with CNN, Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey, says that it’s still too early to tell whether the earthquakes are related or not.

Caruso says, “It’s one day after the Ecuador earthquake and two days after the Japanese earthquake, so no real research has been done on these quakes as far as they’re being connected.”

“Usually we don’t think earthquake are connected across the ocean,” Caruso adds.

Randy Baldwin, a geologist at US Geological Survey, states that it is hard to tell if there is really a connection between the earthquakes. Despite several research projects on the subject, experts have not reached a consensus.

Baldwin says he and his research team do not believe different earthquake-prone areas are related to one another.

Kuo Kai-wen, director of Taiwan’s Seismology Center, also thinks that whether the seismic zones in East Asia are active remains to be seen because the earthquakes that took place this month were results of collisions of different earth plates.

Edited by Olivia Yang

“Ecuador Earthquake Kills Hundreds in Huge Wave of Collapses” (The New York Times)
“Powerful Earthquake Hits Ecuador’s Coast, Killing 262” (NPR)
“Japan earthquakes: thousands of troops pour in to support survivors” (The Guardian)
“Earthquakes across the world including powerful tremor in Ecuador and series of shakes in Japan could herald new MEGA quake, warns top scientist” (Daily Mail)
“Ecuador and Japan earthquakes: Are they related?” (CNN)
“Ecuador earthquake of 7.8 magnitude kills dozens” (BBC)
New Tang Dynasty Television
New Tang Dynasty Television
Chinese Television System
Sanlih E-Television
Apple Daily
China Times