QUITO – Ecuadorians must begin to acquire “seismic awareness” that will allow them to coexist with earthquakes, an all too likely occurrence in this part of the world, said the director of the Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School, Alexandra Alvarado.
The latest aftershocks registered on the country’s north coast, which was shaken last April 16 by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake, are forcing Ecuadorians to acquire a defensive attitude, Alvarado said in an interview with EFE.
According to the Ecuadorian scientist, inhabitants should “begin to acquire seismic awareness” so they will know “what they have to do” the next time this kind of natural phenomenon strikes, though “we don’t know when that will be,” she said.
The earthquake last April 16, which devastated areas of the coastal province of Manabi and the southern part of neighboring Esmeraldas province, exposed the fragility of humans amid such explosions of natural power, not only materially but also psychologically, she said.
“Psychological calm goes hand in hand with knowing what must be done,” Alvarado said, adding that the earthquake “tested all the buildings” in the area.
Constant preparation, training and calm are basic for dealing with such situations, above all because science has not found the key to detecting when these events will occur, she said.
We must admit, the scientist said, that it’s “complicated for people to deal with such a powerful shock, because it’s not easy to manage,” but “it’s vital that we work with citizens to get them ready, because that is the way to construct their social fabric and psychological defenses.”
For example, Alvarado said, “we know there are going to be aftershocks” – some could be very powerful – and for that reason “we have to be able to adapt” to deal with them in the most effective way.
The fact is that parallel to South America’s Pacific Coast runs the so-called subduction zone where the crustal plate of Nazca collides with the continental plate.
On the northern coast of Ecuador, Alvarado said, “we have a very rough area, and when one plate forces itself on top of another, it accumulates a lot of energy.”
During the April 16 earthquake, a small segment of that area was broken due to the collision of the Nazca plate with the continental plate, which caused a powerful tremor, followed by many aftershocks of lesser magnitude.