Super quake struck Earth 3,800 yrs ago, triggered 9,000km wide tsunami, say scientists

Super quake struck Earth 3,800 yrs ago, triggered 9,000km wide tsunami, say scientists

Previously, it was believed that the 1960 earthquake in Southern Chile was the largest.

An ancient super earthquake with a magnitude of 9.5 struck the Chilean coast around 3,800 years ago, triggering 9,000 kilometres wide tsunami that was felt all the way across New Zealand, a new study has discovered.

The scientists said that the quake, believed to have taken place in northern Chile, was so powerful that it actually uplifted the land structures and sent humans into hiding for 1,000 years, according to Science Alert.

Previously, it was believed that the 1960 earthquake in Southern Chile was the largest. That earthquake, with a magnitude of 9.5, left two million people homeless, injured at least 3,000, and killed approximately 1,655.

The study was conducted by Professor Diego Salazar at the University of Chile and was published in Science Advances last week.

“It had been thought that there could not be an event of that size in the north of the country simply because you could not get a long enough rupture,” explained Professor James Goff, Visiting Professor at the University of Southampton who co-authored the study, according to ScienceAlert.

“But we have now found evidence of a rupture that’s about one thousand kilometres long just off the Atacama Desert coast and that is massive,” he continued.

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The scientists claimed that the enormous rupture of the plates due to the quake caused the coastline of northern Chile to lift up, generating a massive tsunami.

They based their hypothesis after finding marine sediments and insects in the Atacama Desert, which are usually discovered in the sea.

“The Atacama Desert is one of the driest, most hostile environments in the world and finding evidence of tsunamis there has always been difficult,” Goff was quoted as saying.

“However, we found evidence of marine sediments and a lot of beasties that would have been living quietly in the sea before being thrown inland. And we found all these very high up and a long way inland so it could not have been a storm that put them there,” he added.

The researchers believe that their findings will help in understanding the earthquake and tsunami hazards in the Pacific region, and how severe the effects will be next time such a super-earthquake happens.

“While this had a major impact on people in Chile, the South Pacific islands were uninhabited when they took a pummelling from the tsunami 3800 years ago. But they are all well-populated now, and many are popular tourist destinations, so when such an event occurs next time the consequences could be catastrophic unless we learn from these findings.” Goff concluded.

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