San Diego (UPI) Nov 18, 2010
The risk of earthquakes around the Panama Canal is greater than previously believed, a seismological survey of faults around the canal indicated.
Researchers from San Diego State University say two known faults adjacent to the canal are much more active than previously thought, the BBC reported Thursday.
They estimate that faults generate temblors every 300 to 900 years.
The most recent one happened in 1621, so another could happen at any time, they say.
In a worst-case scenario, the ground could shift laterally by almost 10 feet, SDSU professor Tom Rockwell says.
"That means that any structures built directly on the fault are likely to be damaged or destroyed, as an earthquake of this size will produce very strong ground shaking," he says.
On the canal itself, the major threat would be to locks, which if damaged could not control the flow of water, which would severely disrupt shipping.
One of the fissures, called the Pedro Miguel fault, runs directly underneath the canal; the other, the Limon fault, runs north of the canal.
The potential damage to Panama City is more worrisome than damage to the canal, a British seismologist says.
"As one of the oldest cities in Central America, it has an abundance of heritage buildings that will have very little resistance to strong seismic shaking," Clark Fenton, a senior lecturer in seismic hazards at Imperial College London, says.
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