The Guerrero gap, or "Brecha Sísmica." The Guerrero gap, or "Brecha Sísmica." Orange circles indicate the epicenters of earthquakes in 2014. White circles mark aftershocks. National Seismological Service, UNAM Seismology Department

Guerrero gap: quake waiting to happen

After 100 years without significant activity, a big earthquake is a possibility

Stored-up energy in an area known as the Guerrero seismic gap could produce a massive earthquake and cause extensive damage in Acapulco, Coyuca, Chilpancingo, part of the Tierra Caliente region and as far as Mexico City, say Civil Protection officials.

The 230-kilometer-long Guerrero gap, stretching between Acapulco and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, is named for the fact that more than 100 years have passed without a significant seismic event.

That, say earthquake specialists, means there is an accumulation of energy that could trigger a big one.

The gap forms part of the coastal region in which the Cocos tectonic plate is sliding beneath the North American plate in a process known as subduction.

The last significant earthquake in the region was a 7.0 in 1911, although Guerrero registers about 25% of all Mexico’s seismic activity. Between 1899 and 1911 there were five quakes ranging between 7.5 and 8.2.

Following a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in southern Guerrero in 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the plates have been locked, causing large amounts of energy to be stored up with potentially devastating effects.

A USGS geophysicist said at the time that the earthquake would not have significantly reduced the remaining stored stress in the seismic gap.

The agency said the gap had the potential to produce a quake as strong as 8.4 on the Richter scale.

The Civil Protection agency recommends that citizens in earthquake zones be prepared with a plan that includes evacuation routes and a preparedness kit containing a cell phone, tools, a radio, flashlights and important documents.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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