Earthquake ‘swarm’ rattles nerves on the coast but doesn’t indicate a larger quake is imminent

Jan 16, 2021 | 1 comment

The Geophysical Institute says 16 earthquakes recorded over the last 24 hours off the northwestern coast are part of a naturally occurring process of “continental plate adjustment” and do not necessary mean a large quake is imminent. Widely felt in the coastal region, the tremblors have all been off-shore except for one near Portoviejo at 2 a.m. Saturday.

Location of a 5.1 magnitude earthquake recorded early Friday afternoon near Esmeraldas.

“This is a classic swarm of seismic activity happening on the boundary of the Nazca and Continental plates,” says seismologist Mario Ruiz. “The majority of swarms do not indicate a larger earthquake is coming but nothing can be ruled out and we are asking authorities to be on alert. The earthquakes are part of the process of the Nazca Plate slipping under the Continental, or South American, Plate.”

Ruiz said there is no danger of tsunamis since the largest quake registered 5.1 magnitude, not strong enough to generate significant large wave action in the Pacific.

Emergency services in Esmeraldas, Manta, Mompiche and Puerto Lopez have received numerous calls, some reporting minor damage, but officials say there have been no injuries. “We are urging residents to be calm but to be prepared for more events since this pattern could continue for days or possibly weeks,” the Manabí Province Prefect’s office said in a statement.

Several of the earthquakes have been centered near the epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude April 16, 2016 earthquake that killed 700 and caused an estimated seven billion dollars in property loses. The area also produced the 1906 quake, estimated at 8.9 magnitude, that killed more than a thousand in Ecuador and Colombia and hundreds more in Hawaii from the resulting tsunami.

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The office of ECU 911 in Manta says the earthquakes are mostly unrelated to “red flag” high wave warnings posted for 33 beaches, from Salinas to Esmeraldas. “The high surf and elevated ocean level is the result of storms thousands of kilometers away,” the office said. “The earthquakes provide some additional agitation but this is minor.”

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