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Chile earthquake was 'megathrust,' most powerful type of quake

February 27, 2010 |  2:41 pm
52475681 Scientists say the major earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile was a "megathrust" — similar to the 2004 Indian Ocean temblor that triggered a catastrophic tsunami.

Megathrust earthquakes occur in subduction zones where plates of the earth's crust grind and dive. Saturday's magnitude 8.8 jolt occurred when the Nazca plate dived beneath the South American plate, releasing tremendous energy.

The U.S. Geological Survey says 13 temblors of magnitude 7 or more have hit coastal Chile since 1973.

The latest quake occurred about 140 miles north of the largest earthquake ever recorded, a magnitude 9.5 temblor that struck southern Chile in 1960, killing about 1,600 people and generating a tsunami that killed another 200 people in Japan, Hawaii and the Philippines.

— Associated Press

Photo: A resident removes the rubble of a destroyed house Saturday in Talca, Chile. Credit: Roberto Candia / Associated Press.

Devastation in Chile

Photos: Chile rocked by 8.8 earthquake.