Members of Civil Protection arrive to inspect a skyscraper after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Venezuela on Wednesday ( AFP/Getty Images )
Sixty-nine earthquakes hit the Pacific’s so-called “Ring of Fire” in the space of 48 hours this week, driving fears that the so-called ‘Big One’ is about to hit California.
But leading experts today played down concerns that a “domino effect” sparked by the recent quakes – including ones which hit the coast near Oregon and Venezuela – could lead to a major tremor in the US state.
Colin Taylor, professor of earthquake engineering at the University of Bristol, told the Standard it’s “too difficult” to make direct connections between quakes along the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean, where many earthquakes occur.
Professor Taylor said: “The majority of earthquakes around the world are driven by plate tectonics over the earth’s crust. They occur when quakes move past, or under, each other. Every now and again, they reach the limit of their strength and break, emitting energy.
A tower block in Caracas, Venezuela, after the earthquake on Wednesday (EPA)
“So technically, that means all earthquakes are connected. But it’s too difficult to say whether they are connected directly.
“In some circumstances, you can definitely make that connection. The Japan 2011 earthquake, which caused a tsunami, happened in three stages.
“But on a global list of earthquakes, they are unlikely to be connected. There are dozens of earthquakes every week, which puts these clusters into context.”
People observe the David’s Tower, affected by the earthquake in Caracas, Venezuela (EPA)
Tiziana Rossetto, professor of earthquake engineering at University College London (UCL), added: “If another part of the tectonic system is in a state where a small increase in stress can rupture the fault, then another earthquake can be triggered.
“However, this domino effect is usually seen in faults that are relatively close to each other, and the Ring of Fire has significant distance between one side and the other: the entire length of the Pacific Ocean.
“So it is unclear whether a domino effect over such distances is possible.”
But Professor Taylor did warn California is at risk of suffering a potentially massive earthquake.
He said: “California is a very active plate boundary, so in a geological timescale, one can expect big earthquakes will occur. When and where, though, is difficult to forecast.”
On Wednesday afternoon, an offshore earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 hit 165 miles from Oregon in the US.
And a powerful quake of 7.3 shook Venezuela’s north-eastern coast. It cut out power and broke windows, but no deaths were reported.