AND TSUNAMI OF 15 AUGUST 2007 IN PERU
A great earthquake
with Moment Magnitude of 8.1 occurred in Peru at on August 15,
2007. The quake damaged extensively the Central/Southern Peru
region and was particularly destructive at the Peruvian cities
of Ica and Pisco, south of Lima. The earthquake caused several
landslides and closed roads. A locally destructive tsunami of
up to 10 meters in height was generated. The far field effects
of this tsunami were not significant. A regional tsunami warning
was issued and subsequently cancelled.
OF 15 AUGUST 2007
Epicenter - Off
the coast of Central Peru, at 13.353 S, 76.510 W (USGS), 25 miles (40 kilometers)
west-northwest of Chincha Alta and 90 miles (145 kilometers)
south-southeast of Lima.
Origin - The quake
struck at 23:41 UTC on August 15, 2007 (6:41 p.m. local time)(7:41
- Moment Magnitude,
- Shallow, 39 km
- According to a
preliminary analysis (Tavera et al., 2007), .the fault rupture propagated
south from the earthquake' s hypocenter.
Aftershocks - Dozens
of aftershocks were recorded, ranging in magnitude from 4.5 to
6.3. The largest on Friday, August 16th, on the Pacific coast
near the city of Chincha Alta. Periodic aftershocks continued
in subsequent days.
Felt Motions - According
to reports, strong ground motions were felt throughout the Chincha
Alta coastal area of Central Peru and lasted for more than two
minutes. The motions were extremely strong at Ica, Pisco, and
were felt stongly in Peru's capital, Lima.
- Deaths and Damage
The earthquake caused
great damage throughout the central/south region of Peru, and
some damage in the capital of Lima. Most of the earthquake damage
was the result of ground liquefaction. Also, landslsides contributed
to the destruction. The most serious destruction occurred in
towns and cities along the Peru's Pacific coast south of Lima,
including Chincha, Ica, Canete and Pisco. The number of dead,
injured and missing continued to rise in the days following the
main earthquake. As of August 18, 2007, according to Peru's Civil
Defense Institute, more than 600 people were killed and thousands
more were injured. These represent estimates which will probably
rise. Most affected by the earthquake were the towns of Chincha,
Cajete, Pisco, Paracas and Ica.
Pisco - The coastal town of Pisco, a city of 120,000
about 160 miles (258 kilometers) south of Lima, was hardest-hit.
At least ten thousand homes (35%) were destroyed or heavily damaged.
20% of the harbor infrastructure was destroyed. Hundreds of people
died. The city's main Catholic church crumbled as the quake struck
during a funeral. As many as 200 people were in the church at
the time. Water and electricity were out, and there were widespread
communication disruptions. Cracks in the Panamerican highway
interfered with subsequent relief efforts.
Ica - In the coastal city of Ica, 300
kilometres south of Lima, there was considerable destruction
of homes and many people were killed. The Senor de Luren church
collapsed during a service, killing at least four worshippers
and injuring dozens. There were power failures. Prisoners from
a local jail escaped.
- Many were killed at Chincha.
Most of the houses, hotels and and business at Totoritas Beach
were heavily damaged or destroyed.
- There was considerable
damage to the area known as Cathedral and the Friar. The Paracas
Hotel sustained damage. Fortunately the fishing plants were not
- In the area known
as Coayllo de Canete, about 117 kms. south from Lima, 30% of
the houses collapsed and many people died. Also collapsed was
a historical XVI century church of great architectual and historical
Nasca - No serious damage occurred.
There was considerable
damage. Anout 20 homes collapsed, walls of a school were damaged
and there was also damage to an electical power station. Six
people died in Callao - Lima's port city - and one in Free Town.
In Miraflores, a multistory building where 70 families resided
was damaged and declared inhabitable. Lima TV showed footage
of traffic lights in Lima swaying with the quake. There were
several power outages.
- Between 30 - 40
percent of the houses in the provinces of Huaytar and Castrovirreyna,
that are contiguous with the department of Ica, collapsed after
the strong earthquake. There was considerable damage to structures
at San Juan de Castrovirreyna, Huaytar, Cordova, Santa Rosa,
Castrovirreyna and Tantar. Also a government building and a church
collapsed . Many people were injured.
in Junin and in Chupaca were damaged.
Tsunami Warning Issued
Based on the large
magnitude of the earthquake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center
in Honolulu, issued a tsunami warning for Peru, Chile, Ecuador
and Colombia, and a tsunami watch for Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua,
Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Honduras. The warnings later
were canceled, along with a tsunami advisory issued for Hawaii.
An instrumented buoy off the coast of Chile, about 440 miles
(708 kilometers) from the earthquake epicenter recorded a wave
of about a foot.
Setting and Seismicity of the Central Peru Region
The Peru-Chile Trench - also
known as the Atacama Trench - is the active boundary of collision
of the Nazca Plate with the South American Plate. According to
Le Pichon et al. (1973), the velocity of subduction of the Nazca
plate near the south Chile and north Peru region is about 8.7
- 8.8 cm/y. The earthquake occurred along an area of high seismicity
on the west coast of Peru where large eqarthquakes occur frequently.
The activity of this zone is most pronounced on the western side
and lies between the Andean mountain block and the Peru-Chile
Trench. This narrow seismic band (100-150 Km wide) is under Peru's
Continental Shelf and is characterized by shallow earthquake
activity and has great tsunamigenic potential (Pararas-Carayannis,
Seismicity of Peru
(Magnitude 6.5 -8 Earthquakes)
As explained in other
reports (see links below) presented at this web site, the subduction
of the Nazca plate beneath the South America continent is not
homogeneous. As a resut , asperities and structural complications
have caused segmentation along the entire margin, resulting in
zones with different rates of slip, seismic activity, volcanism,
uplift, terracing and orogenic processess. Different sections
of the margin along the Great Peru-Chile Trench, are segmented
by fractures or by converging oceanic ridges. Each segment along
the coastal region of Peru has its own characteristic parameters
of collision and structural geometry and, thus, different source
mechanisms for large earthquakes and potentially destructive
Seismicity of the
Central Peru Region -
The historical record supports that the rate of subduction is
not uniform and there is significant fragmentation along the
entire length of the margin as well as differential uplift of
the continental block. Certain tectonic block segments along
the Peru-Chile tectonic boundary have the capability to generate
very large earthquakes.
earthquakes and active orogenesis are evident off Northern/Central
Peru between the Mendana Fracture Zone (MFZ) and the Nazca Ridge.
Even though the Nazca Plate appears to be subducting smoothly
and continuously at about 7-9 cm/yr into the Peru-Chile trench
in this region of Northern/Central Peru, the deeper parts of
the subducting plate appear to break into smaller pieces that
become locked in place for long periods of time before generating
The region (from 7.5
to 12.5 degrees South latitude) has produced at least seven destructive
earthquakes. These occurred on: 9 July 1586; 13 November 1655;
20 October 1687; 28 October 1746; 30 March 1828; 24 May 1940
(M = 8.4); and 17 October 1966 (M = 7.5) (Pararas-Carayannis,
1974). Of these, the earthquakes of 1586, 1687, 1746, 1828, 1966
and 1996 are documented to have produced destructive tsunamis
(lida el al., 1968, Pararas-Carayannis, 1974; Pararas-Carayannis,
1996). The earthquake of August 15, 2007 occurred between the
rupture zones of the 1974 Lima and of the 1996 Nazca earthquakes.
This is a segment which had been identified as a seismic gap
(Tavera and Bernal, 2005).
The earthquake generated
a destructive local tsunami along the coastal area of Chincha
Alta of Central Peru. Most of this coastal area is uninhabited
desert. The first of the tsunami waves reached the immediate
coastal area within 10-20 minutes after the earthquake. There
was sufficient time for local authorities to issue a warning
in the immediate area. Prompt evacuation of coastal fishing
villages saved many lives. However, no warning could reach communities
further south in the Paracas peninsula - and lives were lost.
team that subsequently surveyed the area determined that the
tsunami's maximum runup was up to 10 meters. There was no recording
of the tsunami by a tide gauge in the immediate area. The closest
tide station at Puerto General San Martin, about 55 km south
of the epicenter, was damaged by the earthquake and did not
function. Distant tide gauge stations recorded only a small
tsunami. The Callao/La Punta tide station in Peru measured
a tsunami height of about 1 meter. In Chile, the Arica tide
gauge measured 36 cm, the Coquimbo station measured 28 cm and
the gauge at Valparaiso recorded 17 cm.
Area - The tsunami
generating area was in the offshore area along the Chincha Alta
of Central Peru. A preliminary fault plane solution (Ji &
Cheng, 2007) indicates that the earthquake's rupture occurred
along a plane which had and overall strike orientation of about
324 degrees and a dip of about 27 degrees. The rupture was constrained
by asperities to the north and to the south. The tsunami was
generated by crustal displacements that were approximately 190
km along the quake's strike and 95 km along its dip. The aftershock
distribution is consistent with these dimensions for the tsunami
of the Tsunami in the Pisco and the Paracas Penisnsula Region
of Central Peru
Pisco - Many boats were carried inland
and were deposited in the town's streets.
Paracas Peninsula - The tsunami runup ranged from
about 3 meters at the north end of the Paracas Peninsula to about
10 meters further south. At Paracas there was considerable damage
to the dock facility from liquefaction associated with the strong
ground motions of the quake and subsequently from the tsunami
Lagunilla - The tsunami waves inundated
up to 2 km inland along the very flat area south along the Paracas
Peninsula. Seven people died. According to reports, the bodies
of three of the victims were recovered 1.8 Km inland.
Explanation why only a destructive local tsunami was generated
by the Great Earthquake of August 15, 2007
The earthquake of
August 15, 2007 was caused from faulting along the boundary where
the Nazca plate subducts beneath the South American plate. The
rate of tectonic plate convergence in this area is about 77 mm
per year. However, as stated previously, the angle of subduction
of the Nazca oceanic plate beneath the South American plate is
not uniform along the entire segment of the Peru-Chile Trench
fronting Peru. The angle of subduction is apaparently affected
by buoyancy forces of the bounding oceanic ridges and fractures
- such as the Mendana Fracture Zone (MFZ) to the North and the
Nazca Ridge to the South in Northern/Central Peru. Changes in
the geometry of subduction as well as heterogeneous compressive
forces may also affect the tsunami generating mechacnisms, particularly
near regions where oceanic ridges converge the continent - which
may also limit the extent of earthquake ruptures.
The overall subduction in the Peru segment of
theTrench begins with a dip of about 30 degrees. However, seismic
reflections studies indicate that it then flatens out and becomes
sub-horizontal between 100 and 150 km depth beneath Peru, before
steepening and descending into the earth's mantle. Also, seismic
studies indicate that the flat slab segment exhibits a 20-40
km lithospheric "sag", approximately mid way between
relative highs from Latitude 5 degrees South and Latitude 13
degrees South. This suggests a double buoyant plateau model,
with the Nazca Plate supported by two light bodies - the Mendana
Fracture Zone (MFZ) to the North and the Nazca Ridge to the South.
Such "saging" due to buoyancy forces would be expected
to affect the source mechanisms of earthquakes, particularly
near areas where an oceanic ridge, such as the Nazca Ridge, intercepts
the continent. In fact the epicenter of the earthquake of August
15, 2007 was at Latitude 13.353 S, very near the region of Nazca
Ridge convergence with the South American continent.
Not only seismic reflection
studies, but studies of mineral concentrations along Peru, provide
additional clues for such geotectonic anomalies (that also determine
whether a destructive tsunami will be generated along a specific
segment of the active marginal convergence zone). Specifically,
magmatic-hydrothermal ore deposits found in the Andes and along
certain coastal regions of Peru have been correlated to past
distinct and sudden metallogenetic episodes during the last 200
Ma - episodes not necessarily associated with progressive eastward
movement of the Nazca plate beneath the continental South American
plate (Rosenbaum et al. 2005 A, B). Also, some of these magmatic-hydrothermal
ore deposit concentrations were found in regions of Peru associated
with aseismic ridge subduction. The localized concentrations
of ore deposits suggest the existence of crustal heterogeneities
within the subducting oceanic plate (the Nazca plate) - which
are particularly prevelant in the Southern Central Peru region.
These heterogeneities may be caused by the suspected crustal
buoyancy anomalies which affect the dynamics of the subduction
system in this particular region of Peru (near the Nazca Ridge
in central Peru where the August 15, 2007 earthquake occurred).
Accordingly, there may be laterally migrating zones of flat ridge
subduction which could account why the great M+8.1 magnitude
earthquake of 15 August 2007 did not generate a tsunami of great
far-field significance as other earthquakes further north or
further south have done.
Also, in the vicinity
of the Nazca Ridge intersection with the South American continent,
it appears that there is a northward kink in the subducting extension
- which would also support the existence of different tectonic
geometry by northward-trending lateral compressive forces - the
same forces that have formed the Paracas peninsula ending at
Punta Huacos. Thus, the length of earthquake caused ruptures
in this region is limited. This is a reasonable explanation why
the earthquake of 15 August in the region did not generate a
destructive tsunami elsewhere except the immediate region. From
this preliminary analysis we can reasonably conclude that earthquakes
further north and south of the Nazca Ridge have the potential
of generating local destructive tsunamis in Peru with more extensive
far-field impact , but that region near the Nazca Ridge intersection
appear to have shorter ruptures and a diminished potential for
far-field destructive tsunami generation.
Potential of the Southern Peru Segment of Subduction along the
The Peru-Chile Trench
is a manifestation of very active subduction along the South
American continent. Most of the destructive tsunamis along the
South American coast have been generated from major or great
shallow earthquakes - east but in close proximity to the Peru-Chile
Trench. Deeper earthquakes, along the Beniof Zone (which is quite
wide and flat in this area of Southern Peru) do not produce tsunamis.
Historically, the large earthquakes along the Peru-Chile Trench
above latitude 16 degrees South have produced locally destructive
tsunamis but not destructive Pacific-wide tsunamis. The real
destructive Pacific-wide tsunamis have been generated a little
further south along the coast of Chile. The 1868 Pacific wide
tsunami, characterized as the "Great Peru earthquake and
tsunami", which destroyed Arica (then part of Peru), had
its epicenter further south - in what is now northern Chile (around
18.5 South). The 1960 Pacific-wide tsunami was generated by a
huge earthquake which had its epicenter at about 37.5 South latitude.
The reason this tsunami was so destructive in Hawaii, Japan and
elsewhere in the Pacific, was that the 1960 earthquake's rupture
extended along a strike length of about 900-lOOOkm.
Review of the historic
record indicates that most of the earthquakes along the entire
coast of Peru have had relatively short rupture lengths and therefore
have generated only local destructive tsunamis. For example the
1966 tsunami which was generated by a large earthquake in the
central part of Peru's seismic zone 4, had a rather short rupture
of about 120 km (Pararas-Carayannis, 1968, 1974). It
did not produce a Pacific-wide tsunami. Similarly, the June 23,
2001 Peru earthquake had a relatively short rupture (estimated
at 152 km) and it did not generate a large Pacific- wide tsunami.
The obliquity of convergent
tectonic plate boundaries along this region of southern Peru
may be the reason for the shorter rupture lengths. The gradients
in obliquity appear to change south of 18.5 South Latitude as
a consequence of the geometry of tectonic plate motions. Rupture
lengths of major earthquakes are longer and the tsunamigenic
potential is greater, further south. For example, the May 9,1877
(Mw 8.8) quake near Iquique, had a rupture of about 420 km along
the coast of Chile and extended from 18 South to 23 South and
generated a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami. The tsunami wave
heigths reached 24 meters in Chile and up to 5 meters in Hawaii (
Pararas-Carayannis 1969; Pararas-Carayannis andCalebaugh, 1977).
Further south, the
November 10, 1922 earthquake (Mt 8.7) in Northern Chile, had
a rupture of about 300-450 km-long, extending from about 26.1
to 29.6 South. It generated also a Pacific-wide tsunami - although
not as large as that generated by the 1877 or 1868 earthquakes.
Tsunamis in the Central/Northern Peru Region
Cox, Pararas-Carayannis, 1967)
1586, 9 July - 0 30 Reconstructed Epicenter
- 12.20 South 77.70 West, Off Lima/Callao, Peru. Reconstructed
Magnitude 8.5 3.5 4.0 26.00 5 L 20 T 4 Destructive Tsunami. The
shore inundated for 10 km inland. Tsunami Height at Trujillo
1655, 13 November
- 19 38 Reconstructed
Epicenter 12.00 South, 77.00 West, Off Lima/Callao. No details.
1678, 17 June - No details. At Santa sea receded
and later returned with destructive violence. Ship carried far
inland (alternate date given January 18)
1687, 10 20 - 9 30 Reconstructed Epicenter
13.50 South, 76.50 West Magnitude 8.5 3.5 1.0 8.00 14 M 5000
T 4 SAM LOC Off Callao. At Callao and Chancai Pisco, the sea
retreated then returned with great violonce. Town and market
were destroyed. No other details.
1746, 10 29 - 3 30 Reconstructed Epicenter
12.50 South, 77.00 West, Magnitude 8.0 3.5 4.6 24.00 7 L 18000
Near Callao the tsunami
height was 24 meters. Portion of the coast sank producing a bay.
All ships in the harbor were destroyed or beached. One ship stranded
about 1.5 km inland. Of 5,000 inhabitants only 200 survived.
At Cavallos, Chancay and Gaura the effects of the tsunami were
1828 3 30 - 12 35 Reconstructed Epicenter
12.10 South, 77.80 West 50 8.2 No details available. Only that
the tsunami was destructive to cities north of Lima (Callao).
1940 5 24 - 16 33 Epicenter 10.50 South,
77.00 West 60 8.4 7.8 1.5 1.0 2.00 1 S 250 T 3 No details available
1942 August 24 - Epicenter 15 South 76 West,
Magnitude 8.1 Shallow. Tsunami at Callao - 1.6meter wave with
period of 30 min. Travel time to Callao 0.7 hour; At Matarani
0.5 meters, Travel Time 1.7 hour. Tsunami wave period 21 min.
1966 10 17 - 21 42 Epicenter 10.70 South,
78.80 West 38 7.8 8.1 8.2 1.5 1.6 3.00 67 M 125 T 4
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G. THE SOURCE MECHANISM
OF THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI OF OCTOBER 17, 1966 IN PERU
G. Earthquake and
Tsunami of 23 June 2001 in Southern Peru
University of Southern
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