1992 Nicaragua earthquake

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1992 Nicaragua earthquake
Relief map of Central America.jpg
UTC  time1992-09-02 00:16:01
ISC  event 270936
Local dateSeptember 2, 1992 (1992-09-02)
Local time6:16
Magnitude7.7 Mw [1]
Depth45 km (28 mi)
Epicenter 11°44′31″N87°20′24″W / 11.742°N 87.340°W / 11.742; -87.340 [1]
Areas affected Nicaragua
Casualtiesat least 116 killed [1]

The 1992 Nicaragua earthquake occurred off the coast of Nicaragua at 6:16 p.m. on September 2. Some damage was also reported in Costa Rica. At least 116 people were killed and several more were injured. The quake was located in an active zone of stress and deformation. It created tsunamis disproportionately large for its surface wave magnitude.

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.

Costa Rica country in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers. An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

<i>Tsunami</i> Series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water

A tsunami or tidal wave,, also known as a seismic sea wave, is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves, which are generated by wind, or tides, which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.



The 1992 Nicaragua earthquake was the first tsunami earthquake to be captured on modern broadband seismic networks. [2] The initial surface wave magnitude was estimated at 7.2. [3] The shock occurred on the subduction interface between the Cocos and Caribbean Plates, an active zone of stress and deformation, [3] and due to the absence of sediment on the ocean floor off Nicaragua, the slip propagated up-dip all the way to the trench bottom, a creator of large tsunamis. [2] This occurrence of slip of a plate interface filled with soft subducted sediments caused the rupturing process to be slower than the average subduction zone thrust earthquakes [2] while the focus of the earthquake was much shallower than the typical subduction zone earthquake. [3]

A tsunami earthquake triggers a tsunami of a magnitude that is very much larger than the magnitude of the earthquake as measured by shorter-period seismic waves. The term was introduced by Hiroo Kanamori in 1972. Such events are a result of relatively slow rupture velocities. They are particularly dangerous as a large tsunami may arrive at a coastline with little or no warning. A tsunami is a sea wave of local or distant origin that results from large-scale seafloor displacements associated with large earthquakes, major submarine slides, or exploding volcanic islands.

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.

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 and casualties

The first shock of the earthquake occurred at 0:16 GMT and was followed by several strong aftershocks. [4] The quake was most widely felt in the Chinandega and León departments of Nicaragua, though it was also felt elsewhere in Nicaragua at El Crucero, Managua and San Marcos and at San José in Costa Rica. [1] It was the strongest seismic event to hit Nicaragua since the earthquake of 1972. [4]

Chinandega Department Department in Nicaragua

Chinandega is a department in Nicaragua, located on the border with Honduras. It covers an area of 4,822.42 km² and has a population of 429,557. The capital is the city of Chinandega.

Departments of Nicaragua Wikimedia list article

Nicaragua is a unitary republic, divided for administrative purposes into fifteen departments and two autonomous regions :

El Crucero Municipality in Managua, Nicaragua

El Crucero is a municipality in the Managua department of Nicaragua with 22,107 inhabitants.

At least 116 people were killed, most being children sleeping in their beds, [5] with more than 68 missing and over 13,500 left homeless in Nicaragua. [1] At least 1,300 houses and 185 fishing boats were destroyed along the west coast of Nicaragua. [1] Total damage in Nicaragua was estimated at between 20 and 30 million U.S. dollars. [1]

According to the Augusto César Sandino Foundation, the most affected were "inhabitants of small poor communities who live from diverse subsistence activities. Their houses, located beside the sea, were almost entirely destroyed. These people have lost their livelihoods, poor peasants who grow basic grains for their own consumption in marginal areas, and fisherpeople who have lost their fishing equipment, boats, storage sheds and warehouses. Their already extreme poverty has been exacerbated." [6]


Most of the casualties and damage were caused by a tsunami affecting the west coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and it was one of three tsunamis to occur within a span of six months. [5] Runup heights were measured shortly after the earthquake [7] and reached heights of up to 9.9 meters, though the average height was 3 to 8 meters. [8] [9] The tsunami was disproportionately large for its surface wave magnitude, or Ms, [2] and the duration of the rupture process was 100 s, unusually long for its size. [8] The moment magnitude was 7.6, larger than the 20-s Ms of 7; this MsMw difference is a characteristic of tsunami earthquakes. [2] Tide gages were set up at Corinto and Puerto Sandino, which showed an impulsive tsunami originating 61 minutes after the earthquake. [8] It ran inland 1,000 meters to Masachapa, [1] the hardest hit major town of all, with 9 fatalities. [4]

The moment magnitude scale is a measure of an earthquake's magnitude based on its seismic moment, expressed in terms of the familiar magnitudes of the original "Richter" magnitude scale.

Puerto Sandino Municipality in León Department, Nicaragua

Puerto Sandino is a coastal town in western Nicaragua. Prior to the 1979 revolution it was known as Puerto Somoza. Due to its crude oil supply line, it is a major port, and also plays a large role in Nicaragua's fishing industry. Puerto Sandino is an extremely popular location for surfing.

Relief efforts

From the onset of the disaster authorities provided initial assistance. [4] President Violeta Chamorro stated in her speech to her nation on September 2, 1992, that no international assistance was needed. [4] However, the Red Cross did assist in some operations while the National Civil Defence carried out much of the relief operations, with wounded people being transported to the Hospital Leon and Lenin-Fonseca Hospital. [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

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