Posted: Mar 25, 2014 6:50 AM MDT
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — More than 300 earthquakes have shaken Chile’s far-northern coast the past week, keeping people on edge as scientists say there is no way to tell if the unusual string of tremors is a harbinger of an impending disaster.
The unnerving activity began with a strong magnitude-6.7 quake on March 16 that caused more than 100,000 people to briefly evacuate low-lying areas, although no tsunami materialized and there was little physical damage from the shaking.
But the land has not settled down. More than a dozen perceptible quakes were felt in the city of Iquique just on Monday.
“The situation is out of the ordinary. There’s a mix of a string of tremors and their aftershocks that make things more complex to evaluate,” Mario Pardo, deputy head of the Universidad de Chile seismology center, told the local newspaper La Tercera. “We can’t rule out a larger quake.”
Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts.
The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth also happened in Chile — a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.