Weak earthquake in Quito is a reminder to be ready for a worst case scenario!

Quito, Ecuador - image earthquake-report

FINAL UPDATE 09:32 UTC : after screening our various sources we are happy to report that NO damage has been reported from this weak earthquake

UPDATE 09:00 UTC : The earthquake was measured in Ecuador as a 4.2 magnitude at a depth of 12 km.  The earthquake was followed by a weak aftershock.
The shaking of the earthquake was strongly felt in the following Quito suburbs : Iñaquito, Kenedy, El Inca, La Carolina, el valle de Los Chillos

Original article
On Wednesday evening 7:04 PM ,  one of the suburbs of the Ecuadorian capital of Quito was hit by a (luckily) weak earthquake.
The city of Quito did grow merely above a very dangerous transform fault line zone, which has the potential to generate very powerful earthquakes.
The number if inhabitants of Quito exploded the last decades and (based on my own experience) only the minority of newcomers with good jobs are taking care of earthquake-proof building guidelines.
Latest census numbers (2001) are mentioning Quito (including suburbs) with a population of 1,842,201.
Keeping both elements in mind, Quito (like so many other big cities in the world) is a ticking time bomb.
A +6 magnitude shallow earthquake below Quito will be news headlines for more than a month.

Potentially more destructive shallow earthquakes of magnitude 6 or less can occur in the highlands (Quito belongs to the highlands). A total population of ~6 millions inhabitants currently live in the Ecuadorian highlands, raising the seismic risk.

A group of scientists coming from Ecuador, Japan and USA are describing the earthquake treat as follow :
In order for the residents of Quito - including government officials, business leaders and the general public - to prepare for the next major earthquake, they must first understand the earthquake threat and the effects that a destructive earthquake will have on Quito. Only then can Quito begin a risk reduction program to reduce damage and loss of life in the next major earthquake.
Within a distance of 25 km from Quito, the 1990 Pomasqui earthquake indicated that the Catequilla fault is active, and the geometry of the fault indicates that it has the potential for generating a larger magnitude earthquake.
Twenty-three earthquakes produced intensities of 6 or greater during Ecuador's 460 years of written history.
As consequences of this research project, a seismic safety commission has been set up by the Municipality, a seismic code is under way and a project to retrofit several of Quito schools has been launched.
The research group looked at the many facets of an earthquake, present building habits, awareness of the public, soil catalog (what will the shaking do to the soil), media attention etc.
The final results are not yet published, but scientists are firmly concluding that Quito has a huge damage risk and if it wants to avoid a potential destruction and economic loss, it will have to be earthquake-prepared.
(Click here to read the full document of this study - we can warmly advise it to everyone having an interest in how major cities will behave during a major earthquake)

An article published at hoy.com.ec pinpoints that at least 80 city neighborhoods at at extremely high risk for a possible tremor. Here are some (translated) excerpts of the Hoy article :

Dangerous illigal houses in Quito suburbs - picture courtesy hoy.com.ec

"In the capital there are 480 districts settled in illegal areas. Of these, 80 are facing the greatest danger
High-intensity earthquakes (between magnitudes 6 and 7) recorded in Quito only include those that occurred several centuries ago, in 1587, 1755, 1859, 1868. The most recent occurred 20 years ago.
However, recent events in Haiti and earthquakes in Chile create the need to assess whether the people of Quito are able to cope with a disaster nature of these proportions.
About every 100 years, a strong magnitude earthquake happens in Quito, but the last was 149 years ago.
Seismologists say that caution should be used because an earthquake could now be even more intense, because of the stored energy.
The city has not been prepared against this danger and has expanded in a haphazard manner, causing high levels of vulnerability in certain constructions exposed to secondary effects of earthquakes (landslides, mudslides, floods).
Due to soil instability, the city would be equally affected, even when the epicenter would be outside Quito.
Another giant problem is that two thirds of the capital is constructed informally.
80 districts are located in highly vulnerable areas and 60 do not have permits.
The result, says Elizabeth Cabezas, president of the Committee on Soil and Land Management, are buildings erected without any earthquake resistant standards.
Currently, only seven churches in the center have been reinforced under the law.
Some of the neighborhoods in danger are La Vicentina, La Bota, La Ronda, The Railways, etc.
Improvements and mandatory following of the earthquake-proof Building Code (at the national level) would be implemeted soon.
Communication campaigns are addressed to the population and to the school sector.
Water utilities, sewerage, electricity and telecommunications studies prepared budget to join this contingency plan.
The Municipality will have to relocate about 40 000 people (between 8 000 and 9 000 families) who live in high-risk areas. "
Click here to read the entire article in Spanish. The article dates from March 14, 2010, shortly after the massive 8.8 earthquake in Chile's Maule/Bio-Bio

We, @ earthquake-report, do ask Quiteños (people living in Quito) to let us know if the municipality of Quito did already act to relocate people and if they started to inform the Quito population about earthquake preparedness.
Feel free to add your comment via Facebook or the comment field below this article.

Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : Md 4.2
UTC Time :  Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 00:04:44 UTC
Local time at epicenter :  Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 07:04:44 PM at epicenter
Depth (Hypocenter) : 12 km
Quake-maps.com satellite map + I Did Feel It form
Geo-location(s) :
Below the Quito suburb of Conocoto and Sangolquí
9 km (5 miles) SSE (162°) from QUITO, Ecuador

Links to important maps
Quake-maps.com satellite map + I Did Feel It form
Google satellite map of the area showing the kind of terrain the earthquake took place
3-dimensional view of the earthquake area (USGS epicenter location)
USGS historic earthquakes map
USGS Seismic hazard map

QuakeSOS+ is an iPhone application developed by Armand Vervaeck, the creator and main contributor to Earthquake Report. The Application simplifies immediate group communication to friends and family members (with your exact GPS location) and is constantly feeding the users with œEarthquake Report news. Together with your own family and friends, QuakeSOS+ will be your closest earthquake friend. Buying QuakeSOS+ will support the activities of SOS Earthquakes.

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Quake-Maps.com was also created by SOS Earthquakes. Quake-Maps.com makes it easy to let the world know which shaking people have experienced during the earthquake. Quake-Maps.com gives also the opportunity to write some additional text. Filling up the form takes only 1 minute. Quake-Maps.com gives an overview of all the resent earthquakes and let you even go back in time and retrieve earthquakes of a certain date in the past.

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