Sunday, April 17, 2016

MONUMENTAL DELUGE: The Latest Reports Of High Tides, Heavy Rainfall, Flash Floods, Sea Level Rise, Widespread Flooding, And Catastrophic Storms - Floods Hit Santiago, Chile Cutting Water Service To MILLIONS; 23 Killed By Flooding In Afghanistan; Malawi Declares "STATE OF EMERGENCY" As Flooding Kills Dozens; Flooding Hits North Island, New Zealand With More Heavy Rainfall On Way! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Floods in Santiago. © Claudio Orrego

April 17, 2016 - EARTH - The following list constitutes the latest reports of high tides, heavy rainfall, flash floods, widespread flooding, sea level rise and catastrophic storms.

Floods hit Santiago, Chile cutting water service to millions

Heavy rains have caused severe flooding and cut water service to millions of people in Chile's capital, Santiago.

Authorities say the Rio Mapocho flooded several districts of the city and landslides killed at least one person. Seven others are missing and people along the Costanera Center shopping center were being evacuated Sunday.

Floods in Santiago. © Agencia Uno

City officials say water service was cut to at least 3 million people due to contamination caused by the flooding. They've urged residents to limit water use until the problem is past.

Electricity also was cut to tens of thousands of people in the Chilean capital on Sunday.

WATCH: Widespread flooding in Chile.

23 killed by flooding in Afghanistan

At least 23 people were killed as heavy rainfall and floods hit Afghanistan's Badghis province on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Based on the reports we have received so far, 23 people, including women and children, have been confirmed dead due to downpour and flooding in Jawand, Balamurghab and Abkamari districts," a police official told Xinhua news agency.

An Afghan man tries to get out of flood water after a heavy rain in Samangan province, northern Afghanistan, April 17, 2016.

Afghan men push a car trapped in flood water after a heavy rain in Samangan province, northern Afghanistan, April 17, 2016.

Afghan men wade through flood water after a heavy rain in Samangan province, northern Afghanistan, April 17, 2016.

Rainstorm and flooding hit several parts of Afghanistan, including the capital city Kabul, on Saturday night and parts of the country were still receiving heavy rain.

Malawi declares "State of Emergency" as flooding kills dozens

Floods in Malawi

Ten days of persistent rains in the north of Malawi have killed dozens, injured others while destroying over 1000 houses and affecting about 17,000 families.

The impact of the rain has made President Peter Mutharika to declare a state of emergency as local authorities call for help.

The disaster has wreaked havoc on the densely populated country, where most people survive on subsistence farming. Crops of maize have been destroyed, villages wiped out, homes swept away and livestock killed.
Ethel Khosa, is one of the survivors, but unfortunately she lost two of her children and her home. "It all started yesterday late in the evening when we were sleeping. Suddenly, the house collapsed on us," she said.

"We call all religious organizations to come and support the people in a situation of lack, at the level of housing and other basic products which can help," said Patricia Kaliyati, Malawi Minister of information.

Many of those forced from their homes have taken refuge in schools, disrupting education for around 350,000 pupils. Unicef is providing tents so that the schools can set up temporary learning spaces while still offering accommodation to families at night.

WATCH: Malawi declares "State of Emergency" as floods kill dozens.

Flooding hits North Island, New Zealand with more heavy rain on way

Coromandel residents told how they were caught out by fast-rising floodwater after the heavens opened on Sunday.

Cars have been left stranded on flooded roads and homes are water-logged after the North Island was drenched in rain.
Many fences are down as farmers wait for the morning to see if livestock in flooded paddocks have made it through the night.

Tellic Evans from White Star Honey at Colville at the northern end of the Coromandel Peninsula said 174ml of rain fell on her farm on Sunday.

A severe weather watch was upgraded to a warning at 6.30pm on Sunday, she said but by then it was too late. "It' had already hit us by then," Evans said.

"We've got stock that are up to their bellies in water because we didn't move them to high enough ground because we thought it wasn't going to rain that much."

Paddocks and fences are damaged, neighbours closer to the foreshore have already lost stock and a number of homes, including her own, are surrounded by flood water

The Colville School is also affected.

The Coromandel Peninsula and parts of west Auckland bore the brunt of the heavy downpour.

Flooding in Colville, in the Coromandel, on Sunday.  THAMES VALLEY CIVIL DEFENCE

Heavy rain in the Coromandel drenches paddocks. © TELLIC EVANS

The rain stopped at about 9pm and Evans hoped to see flood water recede with the low tide.

But she won't be able to do anything for her animals until dawn on Monday.

"We couldn't get to them because they were surrounded. It's like, leave them and hope we don't lose them."

Elsewhere, one car had to be rescued while driving through water in Albert St, Coromandel, while the nearby town of Colville was flooded.

Fire Service shift manager Daniel Nicholson said a driver was trying to get through a "small river of water" in Coromandel at 4.50pm.

They were trapped in their car as they attempted to get to higher ground but were eventually freed, he said.

Fire crews also responded to floods in Colville at 5.30pm.

MetService had warned of heavy rain in Northland brought upon by a trough of low pressure moving southeast from the subtropics.

In Auckland there were consistent showers during the day, with several flooded houses west of the city.

A loungeroom in a Ranui home was flooded, while a basement of a house in Titirangi was flooded, requiring portable pumps to get water out, Nicholson said.

MetService warned more wet weather was on its way for Sunday night, with rainfall of 50mm to 80mm expected to fall on the Coromandel up until 9pm.

- Daily Mail | Odisha Sun Times | Africa News | Stuff.

EXTREME WEATHER: Major Hail Storm In Assam, India - Hailstones Damaged Airplane With 103 Passengers Aboard!

The aircraft sustained some damage to its nose.

April 17, 2016 - INDIA - A Drukair aircraft with 103 passengers aboard was damaged after flying through hail while on approach to Guwahati airport in India yesterday.

The flight, KB 140, which was on the way to Bangkok via Guwahati, landed safely.

A press release issued by the national airline stated that the weather condition at Guwahati was forecast to be good in terms of visibility and with only light showers occurring.

The pilots were in the process of circumnavigating to avoid thunderstorms en route to Guwahati when they encountered hailstones. "On the approach of flight KB 140, the pilots unexpectedly encountered severe hail stones at the proximity of thunderstorm, though on very rare occasions thunderstorms produce hail stones," a press release from the airline stated.

Damage to the aircraft is currently being assessed the airline said, while adding that it will be back in operation as soon as possible.

An image of the aircraft uploaded onto social media shows that the aircraft's nose has been punctured by the hailstones.

As a result of the incident, flights have been rescheduled.

The airline issued the press release in response to "various speculations in public".

The aircraft is currently grounded for technical reasons at Guwahati airport. A relief flight was operated to carry passengers bound for Bangkok. - Kuensel.


SOLAR WATCH: Strong M6.7 Solar Flare Erupts From The Sunspot 2529 - Temporarily Disrupting Radio Communications! [VIDEO]

Surprise! Quiet sunspot AR2529 isn't so quiet, after all. The heart-shaped active region erupted on April 17th, producing a strong M6.7-class solar flare.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the flare's extreme ultraviolet flash.

April 17, 2016 - SPACE - While they make for stunning images, solar flares could also disturb the atmospheric layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of a mid-level solar flare at 8:29 p.m. EDT last April 17. A loop of solar material was seen emanating off the sun’s right limb.

WATCH: STRONG M6.7 Solar Flare - April 17, 2016.

An awe-inducing solar event, solar flares are potent bursts of energy radiating from the surface of the sun. Once these intense energy beams hit Earth, they can interact with the planetary magnetic field and atmosphere, producing lights at the north and south poles.

It is yet to be known exactly what causes these flares, but it has been proposed that the process of magnetic reconnection occurs and converts magnetic energy into light. This prevailing theory obtained evidence in the form of high-resolution images of an eruption in 2015, the most detailed image seen of the formation of these events.

A pulse of UV radiation from the flare ionized the top of Earth's atmosphere. This, in turn, disrupted shortwave radio communications over the daylit side of our planet.
Mariners, aviators, and ham radio operators around the Pacific Ocean may have noticed fading signals at frequencies below ~15 MHz.
The NOAA blackout map shows the frequencies and territories affected.

This recent flare led to “moderate radio blackouts” during its peak. Such blackouts only take place during the course of a solar flare, which means they have already subsided and are no longer a cause for worry. They are also unlikely to have a major impact on the planet.

The Space Weather Prediction Center defines a radio blackout as the lack of capability to communicate on high-frequency bands in the 5 to 35 MHz spectral range. Lower frequency radio communications, though, may also be substantially affected during radio blackouts.

Here’s how it happens. X-rays and extreme UV light from solar flares ionize the planet’s atmosphere, causing the sun-facing ionosphere to be enhanced, which then blocks radio signals normally reflected off this atmospheric layer. When radio waves are successfully reflected off the ionosphere, long-distance radio communication pushes through – thus no radio blackout occurs.

This flare is classified as an M6.7 class flare, where flares of this class are one-tenth the size of the most intense ones dubbed as the X-class flares. The number pertains to its strength, where an M2 is twice the intensity of M1, and so on.

Credit: SDO/HMI

The flare hailed from Active Region 2529, an area of intricate magnetic activity on the sun. The active region sported a sunspot over the last few days, changing in size and shape as it gradually made its way across the sun’s surface over the last week and a half.

The sunspot, which rotated out of earthly view over the sun’s right side by April 20, was large enough to be seen from the ground without being magnified, and even at some point big enough that nearly five Earth-sized planets could fit inside. A study of this phenomenon helps scientists better probe what leads sunspots to erupt alongside solar flares at times.

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on April 19. Credit: SDO/AIA.

“Ever since a solar flare was first detected by Carrington and Hodgson in 1859, this spectacular phenomenon of solar activity has been a subject of intense research and has served as a natural laboratory for understanding the physical processes of transient energy release throughout the universe,” writes Ju Jing, a physics researcher out of New Jersey institute of Technology, in her recent paper.

She says, for instance, that large, ground-based telescopes can possibly measure these solar features “down to their fundamental spatial scale,” which can be coupled with theoretical models to fully understand how solar phenomena impact Earth.

- Tech Times | Space Weather.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: "I've Lived Here All Of My Life And I've Never Seen It" - Boiling River Near Yellowstone National Park Raises Concerns As Earthquake Activity Increases!

April 17, 2016 - YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, UNITED STATES - The Shoshone River, near Yellowstone National Park, suddenly and without warning started boiling, changed color and began to emit a sulfuric odor on March 25. Nearby witnesses wondered if they were "all going to die." The current consensus among geologists and other experts is that a portion of the Shoshone River began to boil, located near Cody, Wyoming, and a new Yellowstone vent has opened up.

As Mysterious Universe reports, the boiling river near Yellowstone runs just east of Yellowstone National Park. It is close enough to the park and super volcano to be a "canary in a coal mine" as it relates to unusual geothermic events. The event was initially recorded by Dewey Vanderhoff, a photographer who spotted the Shoshone River near Yellowstone boiling and noted other bizarre features in the river.
"I've lived here all of my life and I've never seen it. It was pretty impressive. The river right there is a really dark green. With a polarizing filter it really popped out. [It bubbled like] like jets in a Jacuzzi."
Boiling River Near Yellowstone National Park Heats Worries -

— Mysterious Universe (@mysteriousuniv) April 14, 2016
The Shoshone River near Yellowstone was also emitting a noxious, sulfuric odor, and the stretch of river that was boiling "like jets in a Jacuzzi" was a dark green color.

WATCH: Boiling To Life - Vents Opening Around Yellowstone.

This isn't the first time in recorded history that the Shoshone River near Yellowstone has displayed unusual geological activity, most likely related to its proximity to the national park and caldera. Back in the days of Lewis and Clark, an explorer named John Colter, visited the area. The explorer, also a member of Lewis and Clark's epic expedition, trekked to the area in 1807 and wrote about what he saw. The Shoshone River, near Yellowstone, was known then as the Stinkingwater River, and according to John Colter, when he visited the portion of the river near Yellowstone, he encountered geysers, hot springs and the trademark sulfur-smell of a volcanic river.

The area is also home to sinkholes, geyser cones, and even abandoned sulfur mines.

Despite the descriptions penned by John Colter in 1807, in the interim two centuries, the Shoshone River near Yellowstone has become all but devoid of geothermal activities. According to Jason Burkhardt, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist, the Shoshone River near Yellowstone is currently experiencing a "lull" in geothermal activity.

"We're kind of in a lull compared to when John Colter was in this area. There was substantially more geothermal activity that was occurring back then."

Or at least it was, until March 25, when the Shoshone River near Yellowstone began to boil and emit the tell-tale smell of volcanic activity. The river near Yellowstone national park boiled for four days before the activity abruptly ceased.

The boiling of the Shoshone River for four days in March wasn't the only recent geothermal event in the river to pique the attention of geologists. Recent activity in and around the area of the river near Yellowstone has reportedly released enough hydrogen sulfide into the water to create a dead zone spanning one and a half miles. The stretch of river is now completely devoid of fish due to what Burkhardt referred to as a "chemical barrier," which is blocking fish from entering.

Some believe this to be a very bad sign.

For now, the boiling in the river near Yellowstone has ceased. However, earthquake activity in and around the Yellowstone supervolcano is reportedly increasing.

It's difficult to say whether or not the recent boiling of the river near Yellowstone is an indication of something concerning or just, as geologists claim to believe, another of many vents related to the caldera doing what they do, as they've always done. Much of our current understanding of the Yellowstone supervolcano has come to light over the last century, and new information and data is being compiled and poured over daily.

Only time will tell whether or not the boiling in the Shoshone River near Yellowstone National Park is part of a bigger trend of geologic change in the region.

- Inquisitr.

EXTREME WEATHER: More Signs Of Increasing Magnetic Polar Migration - Lightning Bolt Kills 2 Women During Church Prayer Session In Nigeria!

April 17, 2016 - NIGERIA - The unfortunate incident happened when the two women went to participate in the regular Holy Ghost Hour prayer session of Heavenly Sure Charismatic Church, a Pentecostal church, usually held in the premises of Comprehensive Secondary School, Emekuku in Owerri North LGA, Imo State.

25-year-old Chioma Jonathan was a native of Obiangwu in Ngor Okpala Local Government Area and Chinonye Anyanwu, aged 26, from Ahiazu Mbaise LGA, both in Imo State.

Also affected in the lightning strike was the 54-year-old General Overseer of the church, Pastor Luke
Nwokocha, who led the short-lived prayer session. He temporarily lost consciousness and was rushed to a hospital by his wife and another member of the church, where he was revived. In addition, he sus­tained injuries on his leg.

At the headquarters of the police command in Imo State, Pastor Nwokocha recounted to Sunday Sun, what happened.

"We always have fellowship every Tuesday. On the fateful day, we had our 'Holy Ghost Hour'. We were five members in the church. The two deceased sisters, including the sister that swept the church premises; Evangelist Solomon and myself were arranging the benches. Around 4.30pm heavy rain started falling. I started praying for the programme."

Then there was a sudden lightning flash followed by the deafening sound of thunder. The two women, who were in the direct path of the electric field created by the lightning flash died instantly, when they were struck by the streak. Nwokocha, who apparently was off the direct path of the streak received a much lower jolt of electricity, which, however, was strong enough to throw him across the room, cause temporary loss of consciousness and physical injuries on his leg and hands.

"My wife, Pastor Eucharia Nwokocha and the other church member rushed me to the hospital for medical treatment," he said.
Nwokocha who hails from Umuakuru Emekuku in Owerri North LGA further explained:
"I have been in this ministry for 26 years. I have never experienced anything like this. I was called into ministry in 1990. Until that time, I was a policeman and served in the Imo State Police Command and retired at Akwa Ibom Police Com­mand in July 2007. Following my retirement, I decided to focus on my ministry fulltime. I do not under­stand how it happened, its only God who understands and knows all."
Following the incident, the elder brother of Chioma Jonathan reported the case to the Owerri North Divisional Police Station, from where the case was transferred to the homicide department at the headquarters of the Imo State Police Command, Owerri, the state capital.

The Commissioner of Police, Taiwo Lakanu who confirmed the incident said it was a strange occurrence. He added that the cleric was undergoing interrogation at the State Criminal Investigation Department while the corpses of the dead women had been deposited at the mortuary of the Holy Rosary Hospital, Emekuku.

One of the elders of Emekuku community, Godwin John told Sunday Sun that the whole thing was a mystery.
"We know Pastor Luke usually holds the 'Holy Ghost Hour' prayer session. What happened to Pastor Luke Nwokocha and the lightning strike that killed two members of his church is an abomination. We will consult the elders," he said.

- Nigeria Today.

EXTREME WEATHER: Massive Sandstorm Blankets Guazhou, China - Dropped Visibility To Less Than 600 Meters! [VIDEO]

April 17, 2016 - CHINA - Mobile phone videos of a sandstorm in Guazhou County in northwest China's Gansu Province on Friday showed its intensity.

The entire county was enveloped by the storm in less than 10 minutes.

The storm brought strong gales with speed of more than 75 kilometers per hour and dropped visibility to less than 600 meters.

As the storm moved fast and was quickly over, it did not cause much damage to local industries or agriculture.

WATCH: Sandstorm blankets Chinese city.

- CCTV News.

MASS FISH DIE-OFFS: Migratory Patterns And Disaster Precursors - Thousands Of Swordfish Found Dead On Lopes Mendes Beach, Brazil?! [VIDEO]

Dead swordfish. © Plantao Noticias
April 17, 2016 - BRAZIL - The Lopes Mendes Beach is considered the 8th most beautiful of the world, and 2nd most beautiful in Brazil.

But on Monday, April 11, 2016, this idyllic place turned into a horror scenario as thousands of swordfish were found dead on the beach sands.

© Boa Informacao

The killing was first attributed to water pollution.

As many of the swordfish had a broken neck, officials however say that the probable cause of this dead fish appearing on this paradisiac beach is overfishing.

WATCH: Mass fish die-off in Brazil.

- Strange Sounds.


April 17, 2016 - ARIZONA, UNITED STATES - Arizona could face the most dangerous fire season in years, according to Gov. Doug Ducey and the state's chief forester.

And it's already starting.

"Last year, we burned less than 500 acres" by this time, said Jeff Whitney. "So far this year we've burned over 21,000 acres."

And it's not looking promising.

"Arizona faces a potentially significant wildfire season,"
the governor said after he had been briefed by Whitney and his staff.

It starts with the fact that there have not been major fires in the last two years. Add to that above-average rainfall and the subsequent growth of vegetation - which is now drying out.

Pinion Pine Fire Chief Joe Jackson said the Hualapai Mountains have seen significant moisture this year.

The upside is, the ground remains damp.

The downside is, the grasses that have grown thanks to rain and snowfall will eventually dry out, said Jackson.

The moisture has not been substantial enough to add more fuels than usual, said Jackson.

© Arizona State Forestry

"We always have concerns with fuels," said Jackson. "The grass is growing from the rains and that will help carry fire."

The last big fire to erupt in the Hualapai Mountains was the Dean Peak Fire in the summer of 2013. Thousands of acres burned and the Pinion Pine subdivision and other residential areas were threatened.

Jackson said his firefighters constantly train in wildland firefighting and just recently helped put down the Topock Fire that burned more than 2,200 acres in the Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. That fire jumped the Colorado River and burned acreage in San Bernardino County. Pinion Pine crews also helped battle a blaze near Parker in La Paz County.

"We've done a lot of readiness training," said Jackson.

The high number of tourists in the state in the middle of the fire season "also equals more opportunity for wildland fire," Ducey said.

"We sort of look for patterns," Whitney explained in how he makes the annual predictions. And he conceded that conditions now are very similar to 2002 and 2011.

That is a particularly significant conclusion.

In 2002, the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire burned about 468,000 acres. And the 2011 Wallow Fire consumed more than 538,000 acres.

"We remember those years and the fires we were on in those years," Whitney said. Then, turning to his map of predictions for this year, he added, "I'm concerned about that."

Whitney acknowledged that one perennial issue is when to fight fires and when to simply try to contain them.

He said the debate goes back to the beginning of the 20th century over whether to simply let fires "operate as a natural agent in the ecosystem."

Whitney said the decision pretty much was made when there were large fires at the same time in Washington, Montana and Idaho.

"The policy then became the 10 a.m. policy, where every wildfire was supposed to be suppressed no later than 10 a.m. the following day," he explained. "We got so successful at that we created a fuels problem."

He said the goal now is to find a balance and find times "to allow fire to operate more naturally to do some of the work that we need to have it do for us."

But Whitney said that has to be governed when it's "ecologically appropriate." There has to be an assessment of risk.

"We've got some phenomenally predictive tools these days," he said. "If we look at a fire and say, 'You know what? It's going to get hotter and drier and the wind's going to blow up here in about three days,' and it's kind of locked in the gun sights of Pine-Strawberry or Payson or Flagstaff or the Williams watershed, we've got to go get it."  - Daily Miner.

MONUMENTAL GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Researchers Find Cracks In Ground Near Epicenter Of Japanese Earthquake - Fault Slips By NEARLY 7 FEET! [VIDEO]

© YouTube Screen Capture

April 17, 2016 - JAPAN - Researchers have found a long tear in the earth near the epicenter of a strong earthquake that jolted the southern Japanese prefecture of Kumamoto early Saturday.

They believe the scattering of cracks, which start on a road and run into a rice paddy, trace the line of a fault that caused the tremor.

Hiroshima University Professor Emeritus Takashi Nakata and his team have been examining the area around Mashiki Town since the magnitude-7.3 earthquake.

They found the deviation that runs through a rice paddy is about 1.2 meters wide. The earth on one side of the line is elevated by 50 centimeters.

On the road next to the paddy, the biggest crack is 2 meters wide. The height difference between the ground on each side is 70 centimeters.

The researchers say the Futagawa and Hinagu faults both run through the area.

Nakata says a government panel of seismologists had expected that faults in the area would slip by up to 2 meters (6.56 feet). He said the scale of the Saturday earthquake was nearly as big as the panel's estimate.

WATCH: Researchers find slip in ground near quake epicenter in Japan.

- NHK World.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Tonga - USGS! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

April 17, 2016 - TONGA - A 5.8-magnitude has hit the coast of the Pacific island nation of Tonga, USGS reported. The tremor with a depth of 66km, struck 287km from the county's capital of Nuku'alofa.

The part of the South Pacific Ocean where Tonga lies is considered to be one of the most seismically active areas in the world due to convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates, the USGS said.

USGS shakemap intensity.

In March, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck off Tonga and the Samoa islands, Geoscience Australia and the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported. The quake occurred just 96km from the town of Hihifo in Tonga.

Seismotectonics of the Eastern Margin of the Australia Plate

The eastern margin of the Australia plate is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of New Zealand, the 3000 km long Australia-Pacific plate boundary extends from south of Macquarie Island to the southern Kermadec Island chain. It includes an oceanic transform (the Macquarie Ridge), two oppositely verging subduction zones (Puysegur and Hikurangi), and a transpressive continental transform, the Alpine Fault through South Island, New Zealand.

Since 1900 there have been 15 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded near New Zealand. Nine of these, and the four largest, occurred along or near the Macquarie Ridge, including the 1989 M8.2 event on the ridge itself, and the 2004 M8.1 event 200 km to the west of the plate boundary, reflecting intraplate deformation. The largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand itself was the 1931 M7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, which killed 256 people. The last M7.5+ earthquake along the Alpine Fault was 170 years ago; studies of the faults' strain accumulation suggest that similar events are likely to occur again.

North of New Zealand, the Australia-Pacific boundary stretches east of Tonga and Fiji to 250 km south of Samoa. For 2,200 km the trench is approximately linear, and includes two segments where old (greater than 120 Myr) Pacific oceanic lithosphere rapidly subducts westward (Kermadec and Tonga). At the northern end of the Tonga trench, the boundary curves sharply westward and changes along a 700 km-long segment from trench-normal subduction, to oblique subduction, to a left lateral transform-like structure.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 60 mm/yr at the southern Kermadec trench to 90 mm/yr at the northern Tonga trench; however, significant back arc extension (or equivalently, slab rollback) causes the consumption rate of subducting Pacific lithosphere to be much faster. The spreading rate in the Havre trough, west of the Kermadec trench, increases northward from 8 to 20 mm/yr. The southern tip of this spreading center is propagating into the North Island of New Zealand, rifting it apart. In the southern Lau Basin, west of the Tonga trench, the spreading rate increases northward from 60 to 90 mm/yr, and in the northern Lau Basin, multiple spreading centers result in an extension rate as high as 160 mm/yr. The overall subduction velocity of the Pacific plate is the vector sum of Australia-Pacific velocity and back arc spreading velocity: thus it increases northward along the Kermadec trench from 70 to 100 mm/yr, and along the Tonga trench from 150 to 240 mm/yr.

The Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone generates many large earthquakes on the interface between the descending Pacific and overriding Australia plates, within the two plates themselves and, less frequently, near the outer rise of the Pacific plate east of the trench. Since 1900, 40 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded, mostly north of 30°S. However, it is unclear whether any of the few historic M8+ events that have occurred close to the plate boundary were underthrusting events on the plate interface, or were intraplate earthquakes. On September 29, 2009, one of the largest normal fault (outer rise) earthquakes ever recorded (M8.1) occurred south of Samoa, 40 km east of the Tonga trench, generating a tsunami that killed at least 180 people.

Across the North Fiji Basin and to the west of the Vanuatu Islands, the Australia plate again subducts eastwards beneath the Pacific, at the North New Hebrides trench. At the southern end of this trench, east of the Loyalty Islands, the plate boundary curves east into an oceanic transform-like structure analogous to the one north of Tonga.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 80 to 90 mm/yr along the North New Hebrides trench, but the Australia plate consumption rate is increased by extension in the back arc and in the North Fiji Basin. Back arc spreading occurs at a rate of 50 mm/yr along most of the subduction zone, except near ~15°S, where the D'Entrecasteaux ridge intersects the trench and causes localized compression of 50 mm/yr in the back arc. Therefore, the Australia plate subduction velocity ranges from 120 mm/yr at the southern end of the North New Hebrides trench, to 40 mm/yr at the D'Entrecasteaux ridge-trench intersection, to 170 mm/yr at the northern end of the trench.

Large earthquakes are common along the North New Hebrides trench and have mechanisms associated with subduction tectonics, though occasional strike slip earthquakes occur near the subduction of the D'Entrecasteaux ridge. Within the subduction zone 34 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900. On October 7, 2009, a large interplate thrust fault earthquake (M7.6) in the northern North New Hebrides subduction zone was followed 15 minutes later by an even larger interplate event (M7.8) 60 km to the north. It is likely that the first event triggered the second of the so-called earthquake "doublet".

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics

- RT | USGS.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Powerful 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Ecuador - Tsunami Warning Issued; At Least 77 People Killed, Death Toll Expected To Increase; Dozens Injured; Many Buildings FLATTENED; One Major Overpass Collapsed; STATE OF EMERGENCY In 6 Provinces! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS + MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

April 17, 2016 - ECUADOR - At least 77 people have been killed after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador's central coast.

Tremors were recorded at 11:58 p.m. UTC time (02:58 MSK). According to the USGS, the epicenter of the quake was 17 miles away from the coastal town of Muisne and just over 100 miles away from the capital Quito.

Hazardous tsunami waves of up to one meter (3.2 feet) above the tide level are possible in Ecuador, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) said in a forecast after a powerful earthquake shook the coast of the country.

USGS shakemap intensity.

"Tsunami waves reaching 0.3 to 1 meters above the tide level are possible for some coasts of Ecuador," the PTWC said in a statement.

Officials have declared a state of emergency in six of the country's 24 provinces and the National Guard. The tremor destroyed homes and collapsed one major overpass.

President Rafael Correa urged the country's 16 million people to remain calm during the crisis.

"Our infinite love to the families of the dead," he said on Twitter. He also announced that he would cut short his trip to Italy to return home.

Vice President Jorge Glas also announced that the number of injured people were not currently available but he admitted that the death toll is expected to rise.

People stand in the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake struck Manta, Ecuador. © REUTERS/PAUL OCHOA

© Twitter

© Twitter

© Twitter

Add caption

"It's very important that Ecuadoreans remain calm during this emergency," Vice President Glas announced in a televised address.

"We're trying to do the most we can but there's almost nothing we can do," said Gabriel Alcivar, mayor of Pedernales near the epicentre.

He pleaded for rescuers as dozens of buildings in the town were flattened, people trapped and looting broke out amid the chaos.

"This wasn't just a house that collapsed, it was an entire town."

On social media residents shared photos of homes collapsed, the roof of a shopping centre coming apart and supermarket shelves shaking violently.

In Manta, the airport was closed after the control tower collapsed, injuring an air force official. Hydroelectric dams and oil pipelines in the OPEC-member nation were shut down as a precautionary measure.

WATCH: Monumental Earth Changes.

Zoila Villena, a Quito resident said that she is in a current "state of panic."

"My building moved a lot and things fell to the floor," Villena told The Associated Press.

"Lots of neighbors were screaming and kids crying." The US Geological Survey said the shallow quake, the strongest since 1979 to hit Ecuador, was centred on south-southeast of Muisne, a sparsely populated area of fishing ports that is popular with tourists.

USGS Tectonic Summary

The April 16, 2016 M 7.8 earthquake, offshore of the west coast of northern Ecuador, occurred as the result of shallow thrust faulting on or near the plate boundary between the Nazca and Pacific plates. At the location of the earthquake, the Nazca plate subducts eastward beneath the South America plate at a velocity of 61 mm/yr. The location and mechanism of the earthquake are consistent with slip on the primary plate boundary interface, or megathrust, between these two major plates. Subduction along the Ecuador Trench to the west of Ecuador, and the Peru-Chile Trench further south, has led to uplift of the Andes mountain range and has produced some of the largest earthquakes in the world, including the largest earthquake on record, the 1960 M 9.5 earthquake in southern Chile.

While commonly plotted as points on maps, earthquakes of this size are more appropriately described as slip over a larger fault area. Events of the size of the April 16, 2016 earthquake are typically about 160x60 km in size (length x width).

Ecuador has a history of large subduction zone related earthquakes. Seven magnitude 7 or greater earthquakes have occurred within 250 km of this event since 1900. On May 14th, 1942, a M 7.8 earthquake occurred 43 km south of this April 16th, 2016 event. On January 31st, 1906 a M 8.3 earthquake (reportedly as large as M 8.8 in some sources) nucleated on the subduction zone interface 90 km to the northeast of the April 2016 event, and ruptured over a length of approximately 400-500 km, resulting in a damaging tsunami that caused in the region of 500-1,500 fatalities. The April 2016 earthquake is at the southern end of the approximate rupture area of the 1906 event. A shallow, upper crustal M 7.2 earthquake 240 km east of the April 2016 event on March 6th, 1987 resulted in approximately 1,000 fatalities.

USGS Seismotectonics of South America (Nazca Plate Region)

The South American arc extends over 7,000 km, from the Chilean margin triple junction offshore of southern Chile to its intersection with the Panama fracture zone, offshore of the southern coast of Panama in Central America. It marks the plate boundary between the subducting Nazca plate and the South America plate, where the oceanic crust and lithosphere of the Nazca plate begin their descent into the mantle beneath South America. The convergence associated with this subduction process is responsible for the uplift of the Andes Mountains, and for the active volcanic chain present along much of this deformation front. Relative to a fixed South America plate, the Nazca plate moves slightly north of eastwards at a rate varying from approximately 80 mm/yr in the south to approximately 65 mm/yr in the north. Although the rate of subduction varies little along the entire arc, there are complex changes in the geologic processes along the subduction zone that dramatically influence volcanic activity, crustal deformation, earthquake generation and occurrence all along the western edge of South America.

Most of the large earthquakes in South America are constrained to shallow depths of 0 to 70 km resulting from both crustal and interplate deformation. Crustal earthquakes result from deformation and mountain building in the overriding South America plate and generate earthquakes as deep as approximately 50 km. Interplate earthquakes occur due to slip along the dipping interface between the Nazca and the South American plates. Interplate earthquakes in this region are frequent and often large, and occur between the depths of approximately 10 and 60 km. Since 1900, numerous magnitude 8 or larger earthquakes have occurred on this subduction zone interface that were followed by devastating tsunamis, including the 1960 M9.5 earthquake in southern Chile, the largest instrumentally recorded earthquake in the world. Other notable shallow tsunami-generating earthquakes include the 1906 M8.5 earthquake near Esmeraldas, Ecuador, the 1922 M8.5 earthquake near Coquimbo, Chile, the 2001 M8.4 Arequipa, Peru earthquake, the 2007 M8.0 earthquake near Pisco, Peru, and the 2010 M8.8 Maule, Chile earthquake located just north of the 1960 event.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Large intermediate-depth earthquakes (those occurring between depths of approximately 70 and 300 km) are relatively limited in size and spatial extent in South America, and occur within the Nazca plate as a result of internal deformation within the subducting plate. These earthquakes generally cluster beneath northern Chile and southwestern Bolivia, and to a lesser extent beneath northern Peru and southern Ecuador, with depths between 110 and 130 km. Most of these earthquakes occur adjacent to the bend in the coastline between Peru and Chile. The most recent large intermediate-depth earthquake in this region was the 2005 M7.8 Tarapaca, Chile earthquake.

Earthquakes can also be generated to depths greater than 600 km as a result of continued internal deformation of the subducting Nazca plate. Deep-focus earthquakes in South America are not observed from a depth range of approximately 300 to 500 km. Instead, deep earthquakes in this region occur at depths of 500 to 650 km and are concentrated into two zones: one that runs beneath the Peru-Brazil border and another that extends from central Bolivia to central Argentina. These earthquakes generally do not exhibit large magnitudes. An exception to this was the 1994 Bolivian earthquake in northwestern Bolivia. This M8.2 earthquake occurred at a depth of 631 km, making it the largest deep-focus earthquake instrumentally recorded, and was felt widely throughout South and North America.

Subduction of the Nazca plate is geometrically complex and impacts the geology and seismicity of the western edge of South America. The intermediate-depth regions of the subducting Nazca plate can be segmented into five sections based on their angle of subduction beneath the South America plate. Three segments are characterized by steeply dipping subduction; the other two by near-horizontal subduction. The Nazca plate beneath northern Ecuador, southern Peru to northern Chile, and southern Chile descend into the mantle at angles of 25° to 30°. In contrast, the slab beneath southern Ecuador to central Peru, and under central Chile, is subducting at a shallow angle of approximately 10° or less. In these regions of “flat-slab” subduction, the Nazca plate moves horizontally for several hundred kilometers before continuing its descent into the mantle, and is shadowed by an extended zone of crustal seismicity in the overlying South America plate. Although the South America plate exhibits a chain of active volcanism resulting from the subduction and partial melting of the Nazca oceanic lithosphere along most of the arc, these regions of inferred shallow subduction correlate with an absence of volcanic activity. -

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics

- Independent | Sputnik | USGS.