Chileans Well Prepared for April 1, 2014 Major Earthquake

On April 1, 2014, an 8.2 magnitude megathrust earthquake hit the city of Iquique, Chile. The epicenter of the quake was approximately 59 miles northwest of Iquique. The earthquake occurred in a region with a long history of big-time seismic activity called the North Chile or Iquique seismic gap. A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit the region as far back as 1877. The main shock on April 1, 2014 had been preceded by a cluster of mid-sized quakes that struck the same area, and was then followed by a large number of moderate to very large aftershocks. The aftershock felt on April 3rd was measured at 7.7. The location and mechanism of the April 1st quake are consistent with a slip on the primary plate boundary interface, referred to as megathrust, between the Nazca and South America plates. The earthquake was felt in other areas of Chile, Peru and Bolivia.

The community of Iquique and surrounding areas fared extremely well during this major quake. “Strict building codes and the preparedness of millions of Chileans who live along an arc of volcanoes and fault lines likely kept the death toll (7) low. They’re a seismically active region of the world and they are very good at implementing their building codes, similar to California,” said John Bellini, a Denver-based geophysicist at the US Geological Survey. “Because of that, you would see less damage than in other places that have poorer building codes . . . that’s probably one of the reasons there haven’t been as many casualties as there could have been from a magnitude earthquake of this size.”