Monday, June 1, 2009

Update on the Belize Earthquake

I was concerned to hear that Belize & coastal Honduras were rocked by a 7.1 earthquake in the wee hours of May 28.

While this quake was most destructive in Honduras (just south of Belize), it was felt as far away as Guatemala City. Honduras’ Bay Islands of Roatan and Utila were the closest land to the epicenter; evacuations were reported as far inland as San Pedro Sula.

However, thanks to reports from friends in Belize, including the US Embassy rep for the Northern District, I’m happy to say that although damage in the southern district was wide-spread, no one was killed, and damage in northern Belize was minimal.

monkeyriverSeveral stilt houses in the southern district collapsed; the water tower in Independence toppled; and electrical power went out from Punta Gorda to Corozal.

Yes, Belize occasionally gets earthquakes, though they’re typically felt more strongly in the southern parts of the country – Placencia, Punta Gorda, Seine Bight, Dangriga – than they are in the northern part where I lived.

I do remember being told of an earthquake years ago, when I was living in San Estevan for the Belize Postclassic archaeology project. Everyone else felt it in the village of San Estevan, in Orange Walk and even out at Lamanai – but I totally slept through the tremor, darn it.

For those of you looking for news of this most recent quake, which was followed on May 30 by a smaller 4.6 trembler, epicentered in roughly the same offshore spot, here are some links:

  1. The USGS map of the May 28 quake, measured at 7.3, centered about 80 miles off the coast of Belize & Honduras.
  2. The USGS map of the May 30 quake, measured at 4.6.
  3. A tsunami watch for coastal Belize and Honduras was posted on May 28, but cancelled without incident on May 29.
  4. Funny first-hand account from “As the Coconuts Drop” blog, written by a resident of Maya Beach, in southernmost Belize. Titled GRAB SUMPTIN AND HOLD ON,,,,! or, DID THE EARTH MOVE FOR YOU TOO? Updated with photos.
  5. Another first-hand report from Sue Harris in Monkey River, Belize, where several homes were damaged or destroyed.
  6. A Facebook group has been formed by the staff of the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) on behalf of the people and Town Council of Monkey River.
  7. Fiona’s photos of post-quake damage in Placencia, on Flickr.
  8. News article from the Huffington Post, and the AP report, which go into more detail about the damage in Honduras.
  9. Mission 2005/the Atlantis Projects (MIT) assesses “the seismic background of Belize”, noting that

“Every 8 years approximately, Belize experiences a 6.0 magnitude on the Richter scale subterranean earthquake in the ocean at the fault between Hunting Caye and Puerto Cortez. According to the Belize Development Trust, Belize has a 100% chance of seeing 5 earthquakes and 75% of seeing 10 in the next century. Furthermore, the Northern Lagoon where the Blue Hole is located is cut up into three reef sections separated by three wrench faults.”

plates2The yellow lines on the USGS map shown above illustrate the regional plate boundaries (90% of all earthquakes occur on these shifting edges). It appears that both of these quakes centered on the plate boundary that runs roughly east-west under the Bay of Honduras.

--MaggieBelize
Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Former Resident of Corozal, Belize

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