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It was just over a month ago that we woke up to the news of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. Early yesterday morning, an even bigger quake hit Chile, destroying homes and leaving millions without food, water or electricity.
The earthquake, which occurred at 3.am local time, measured in at a magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale and lasted for a full 3 minutes, is one of the biggest ones ever recorded. Ironically, the largest one ever recorded, which measured 9.5 on the Richter scale, occurred in the same area in 1960.
If that wasn't enough, the people of Chile keep getting subjected to aftershocks - so far, 79 have been recorded each measuring in at at a magnitude of 5.0 or higher.
While estimates are still coming in, it is believed that over 2 million people are homeless and about 200 have perished. A number of bridges have collapsed in the city of Santiago, isolating areas from each other.
While the situation is bad, scientists believe it could have been much worse, had the epicenter of the earthquake been on land, instead of the Pacific Ocean. In addition, unlike the Haitian earthquake, which was not only epicentered on land, but also very close to its densely populated capital of Port au Prince, the Chilean earthquake occurred 100 Km away from Chile's largest city Concepcion, and 320 km away from its capital, Santiago, reducing the number of casualties. Lastly, Chile is accustomed to earthquakes, so the infrastructure has been built to withstand some of the impact.
However, the epicenter in the ocean has its own repercussions - that of potential Tsunamis, which are essentially a series of humongous water waves caused by the displacement of large volumes of water.
Yesterday, the world braced itself for more bad news as Tsunami warnings were issued across coastal areas on the Pacific Ocean, all the way from the Antarctica to British Columbia. Especially vulnerable were the islands of Hawaii and Japan , which were right in the path of the big waves.
However, besides inundating some of the areas on the remote Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles off the coast of Chile, the waves seem to have tapered off, alleviating the danger of a Tsunami.
Also, Scientists believe that the earthquake released so much energy, that it resulted in shifting the earth's axis by 2.7 milliseconds of arc (about 8 centimeters), which in turn shortened the Earth day by 1.26 millionths of a second. The last time this happened was in 2007, when our day was shortened by 6.8 millionths of a second, due to the energy released by the 9.1 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia.
Now, we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the aftershocks cease, and the people of Chile can start to re-build their lives - One more time!
sources:dailymail.co.uk, national geographic.com, wikipedia.com