1972 Nicaragua earthquake

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1972 Nicaragua earthquake
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Managua
UTC  time1972-12-23 06:29:44
ISC  event 766571
USGS-ANSS ComCat
Local dateDecember 23, 1972 (1972-12-23)
Local time00:29:44
Magnitude6.3 Mw [1]
Depth10 km (6.2 mi) [1]
Epicenter 12°11′N86°13′W / 12.18°N 86.22°W / 12.18; -86.22 Coordinates: 12°11′N86°13′W / 12.18°N 86.22°W / 12.18; -86.22 [1]
Areas affected Nicaragua
Max. intensity IX (Destructive) [2]
Casualties4,000–11,000 [3]
20,000 injured [3]
300,000 displaced [3]

The 1972 Nicaragua earthquake occurred at 12:29:44 a.m. local time (06:29:44 UTC) on December 23 near Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. It had a moment magnitude of 6.3 and a maximum MSK intensity of IX (Destructive). The epicenter was 28 kilometers northeast of the city centre and a depth of about 10 kilometers. The earthquake caused widespread casualties among Managua's residents: 4,000–11,000 were killed, 20,000 were injured and over 300,000 were left homeless.

Managua Place in Nicaragua

Managua is the capital and largest city of Nicaragua, and the center of an eponymous department. Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Managua, it had an estimated population 1,042,641 in 2016 within the city's administrative limits and a population of 1,401,687 in the metropolitan area, which additionally includes the municipalities of Ciudad Sandino, El Crucero, Nindirí, Ticuantepe and Tipitapa.

Nicaragua Country in Central America

Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Managua is the country's capital and largest city and is also the third-largest city in Central America, behind Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City. The multi-ethnic population of six million includes people of indigenous, European, African, and Asian heritage. The main language is Spanish. Indigenous tribes on the Mosquito Coast speak their own languages and English.

Contents

Tectonic setting

A Nicaraguan soldier patrolling against looters in the aftermath of the earthquake 1972Nicaraguaquake2.jpg
A Nicaraguan soldier patrolling against looters in the aftermath of the earthquake

Managua, which lies on the southern shore of Lake Xolotlan, near the western coast of Nicaragua, is situated within an active volcanic zone known as the Central American Volcanic Chain. The city has a long history of volcanic and seismic activity which arise from the relative movements of two crustal plates which intersect near the southwestern border of Central America. The Cocos plate, located east of the East Pacific Rise, is moving northeastward and is slowly being submerged under the Caribbean Plate. The zone of dipping is initiated at the surface of the Middle America Trench, which extends 4 to 5 kilometers deep along the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Costa Rica. [4] But rather than a simple crustal movement between the two plates the earthquake was believed to have been caused by a shallow adjustment to geological pressure at the south western corner of the Caribbean plate.

Cocos Plate A young oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Central America

The Cocos Plate is a young oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Central America, named for Cocos Island, which rides upon it. The Cocos Plate was created approximately 23 million years ago when the Farallon Plate broke into two pieces, which also created the Nazca Plate. The Cocos Plate also broke into two pieces, creating the small Rivera Plate. The Cocos Plate is bounded by several different plates. To the northeast it is bounded by the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate. To the west it is bounded by the Pacific Plate and to the south by the Nazca Plate.

East Pacific Rise A mid-oceanic ridge at a divergent tectonic plate boundary on the floor of the Pacific Ocean

The East Pacific Rise is a mid-oceanic ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the Pacific Ocean. It separates the Pacific Plate to the west from the North American Plate, the Rivera Plate, the Cocos Plate, the Nazca Plate, and the Antarctic Plate. It runs south from the Gulf of California in the Salton Sea basin in Southern California to a point near 55° S, 130° W, where it joins the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge trending west-southwest towards Antarctica, near New Zealand. Much of the rise lies about 3200 km (2000 mi) off the South American coast and rises about 1,800–2,700 m (6,000–9,000 ft) above the surrounding seafloor.

Caribbean Plate A mostly oceanic tectonic plate including part of Central America and the Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate underlying Central America and the Caribbean Sea off the north coast of South America.

Damage

A hotel destroyed by the quake in Managua's centre 1972Nicaraguaquake4.jpg
A hotel destroyed by the quake in Managua's centre

The earthquake severely damaged 27 square kilometres (10 sq mi) and destroyed 13 square kilometres (5.0 sq mi) in the city centre. The majority of the buildings in the central business district sustained significant structural damage including a 19-story building, one 15-story building, approximately 5 buildings that were 7 to 9 stories tall and more than 25 buildings that were from 3 to 6 stories tall. Much of the damage arose from seismic ground movement which occurred within 10–15 seconds of the main shock. The majority of the factories and smaller buildings were severely damaged. Many of the houses and small shops were over 40 years old and constructed using a local method called taquezal (or talquezal], in which the timber framed walls are filled with stone and finished with plaster, covered by roofs of unmortared clay tile. The design is very susceptible to earthquake damage. An estimated 53,000 homes in the city were damaged. [5] The water and electrical power networks were severely damaged and more than a week after the earthquake only 10% of the city had any working water service.

Surface faulting

One of the most significant geological effects of the 1972 Nicaragua earthquake quake was surface faulting. Examination of the fault lines indicated a lateral motion moving in a northeasterly direction and aftershock data has revealed at least one of the faults extends from the surface to a depth of 8 to 10 kilometers beneath the city of Managua.

Aftershocks

Within an hour after the main shock, two aftershocks, one of magnitude 5.0 and the other 5.2, occurred at 1:18 a.m. and 1:20 a.m. [5]

Response

An office block damaged 1972Nicaraguaquake3.jpg
An office block damaged

Two-thirds of Managua's 1,000,000 residents were displaced and faced food shortage and disease, and dry-season winds worsened the problem with fires created by the disaster. [4] Because of the damaging effects of the earthquake, many of the emergency services in the city were operating at a seriously lower level than normal. The earthquake destroyed all the fire-fighting equipment available, and fires were prevalent in some areas for several days. All four main hospitals, which before the disaster had 1,650 beds, were unserviceable.

The Nicaraguan government appealed for aid, and the government accepted aid from countries like the United States and Mexico and some 25 other countries, worth millions of dollars. Despite this and the magnitude of the devastation, the aid was not distributed well and the ruling Liberal-Conservative Junta, led by President Anastasio Somoza Debayle, was the target of criticism and was accused of stockpiling foreign aid which never reached the victims of the earthquake. [6] It was because of these reports that the Puerto Rican baseball star Roberto Clemente chose to personally accompany the fourth of a number of relief flights he had organized. That flight crashed on December 31, 1972, killing Clemente among others.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

The Liberal-Conservative Junta officially ruled Nicaragua between 1972 and 1974, though effective power was in the hands of strongman Anastasio Somoza.

Bulldozers shifting the rubble 1972Nicaraguaquake5.jpg
Bulldozers shifting the rubble

Another difficulty was that much of the material aid donated was inappropriate for the needs of the affected Nicaraguans, including such items as winter clothes (Managua's climate is tropical) and frozen TV dinners. [7]

It was later revealed that Somoza and his associates had indeed plundered much of the foreign aid in order to enrich themselves at the expense of the people and of those businessmen who didn't support Somoza.[ citation needed ] Opposition to the regime, which had begun to surface before the earthquake, increased quickly among the lower classes and even among members of the upper and middle classes fed up with Somoza's corruption. This grew into a revolt that became the Nicaraguan Revolution, in which Somoza was overthrown in 1979.

Because of the extent of the damage, the faulty underground terrain, the misappropriation of aid, and the subsequent revolution and 11-year civil war, much of the city centre remained ruined for almost 20 years. Reconstruction only began in earnest in the 1990s.

Aftermath

The earthquake changed the face of Managua during its decades of recovery. The city centre is no longer clearly defined, as buildings have been constructed away from the city centre. During the massive evacuations, the displaced residents set up camp around water resources and areas that remained somewhat unaffected. Although Managua remains Central America's second largest capital and metropolitan area, the bulk of its residents reside in barrios or neighborhoods that are of considerable distance from the city centre. Today, in place of the large buildings that used to exist in the centre, the government set up the "Plaza de la Fe" (Faith Square) in honor of Pope John Paul II.

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 3 ISC (2017), ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue (1900–2013), Version 4.0, International Seismological Centre
  2. Ambraseys, N. N.; Adams, R. D. (2000), The Seismicity of Central America – A Descriptive Catalogue 1898–1995, Imperial College Press, p. 271, doi:10.1142/9781848160118_0001, ISBN   978-1860942440
  3. 1 2 3 USGS (September 4, 2009), PAGER-CAT Earthquake Catalog, Version 2008_06.1, United States Geological Survey
  4. 1 2 Earthquake Information Bulletin, September–October 1973, Volume 5, Number 5., Retrieved on June 2, 2008
  5. 1 2 Earthquake Hazards Program Archived 2008-06-02 at the Wayback Machine USGS, Retrieved on June 2, 2008
  6. "1972: Earthquake wreaks devastation in Nicaragua". BBC . 1972-12-23. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  7. Cornell, James C. (1982), The Great International Disaster Book (3rd ed.), Charles Scribner's Sons.

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PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material  from the  United States Geological Survey document:  "Historic Earthquakes".