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Large, powerful quakes, Tsunami, washes over hapless Santa Cruz island

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

An astounding swarm of large-magnitude earthquakes have struck the Solomon Islands over the past week, including an 8.0 which created a three foot tsunami that wiped out several island villages and killed residents. The swarm of quakes continues with many aftershocks of 6.0 and greater.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A powerful quake rocked the region on Wednesday, and sent a three-foot tsunami that wiped out several villages on Santa Cruz island. About 15 villages have either been entirely destroyed or substantially damaged, and 7,000 people displaced.

Nine bodies have been recovered in the aftermath and several people remain missing.

The low-lying islands are especially vulnerable to tsunamis.

What makes the quakes in the Solomon's so unusual is the high number of powerful aftershocks which keep hitting the islands.  The aftershocks are complicating relief efforts and cracks in roads and runways create safety concerns for aircraft delivering aid personnel and supplies. Several aid flights have been delayed because of aftershocks.

The Solomon Islands have the blessing, and the curse, of being situated along the Ring of Fire, a tectonic boundary that surrounds the perimeter of the Pacific Ocean. Tectonic movements along the boundary have given rise to the Solomon's in the first place and create fertile land for growing crops, which sustain life on the islands.

However, places situated along the boundary from the South Pacific to Japan and the Americas also suffer from periodic, powerful earthquakes that can sometimes spawn tsunamis.

These quakes occur as the various continental plates surrounding the Pacific Plate jostle and grind about, moving at the speed of a few inches per year, on average. The movement does not happen constantly, but rather in spurts and is marked by earthquakes, Most such quakes are small, and hardly felt, but occasionally larger movements occur spawning larger quakes.

Aftershocks will likely continue to strike to Solomon's for months to come, but will slowly diminish in frequency and power over time.

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