Experts Warn of Bigger Earthquakes to Come

  • By Lee Young-wan

    September 13, 2016 10:14

    Products are scattered on the floor at a large discount store in Gyeongju, South Gyeongsang Province on Monday due to the earthquake in this screen grab of a tweet.

    Experts said Monday that the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the historic city of Gyeongju was a sign that the Korean Peninsula is no longer safe from seismic disturbance.

    They said the major earthquakes that devastated Fukushima in 2011 and rocked Kumamoto in April this year shifted fault lines in the region.

    Geologists warned that Korea must prepare for much bigger earthquakes. Gyeongju sits close to the fault line in Yangsan, which is no stranger to seismic activities.

    "Earthquakes generally occur in regions that have experienced seismic activities in the past. The fault line there is active enough to cause an earthquake at any time. Our analysis so far shows that the biggest quake that could occur on the Korean Peninsula measures around 6.5 in magnitude, though some geologists believe a 7.0-magnitude earthquake is possible," said Seon Chang-guk at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources.

    Geologists say the 7.0-magnitude quake that jolted Kyushu, Japan in July had a major impact, a pattern that has been spotted often before.

    "The latest earthquake was relatively more powerful, because the Kyushu quake occurred on the Eurasian Plate, which also includes the Korean Peninsula," Ji Heon-cheol at the institute said.  

    People evacuated to an elementary school in Hwangseong, Gyeongju in South Gyeongsang Province on Monday. /Yonhap

    The government conducted several detailed studies on seismic activity in the fault line in Yangsan due to the construction of nuclear power plants in the region. But geologists warn that existing methods of analysis are not enough.

    The 2001 Geiyo earthquake and Kumamoto earthquake in April changed the fault lines under the Korean peninsula, possibly rendering previous analyses useless, according to geologists.

    "The number of strong tremors has surged on the Korean Peninsula since the 2011 earthquake that rocked eastern Japan," Hong Tae-kyung at Yonsei University said. "Fault lines here have changed."

    Four out of the nine strongest earthquakes ever measured on the peninsula have occurred over the past two years.

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