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Notable Earthquake of the Week
Basel, Switzerland M6+ Earthquake

According to historical accounts, a moderate foreshock struck at the dinner time, probably around 7 p.m. on October 18, 1356, in the Jura mountains south of Basel, Switzerland. Then at about bed time or approximately 10 p.m., the main shock occurred. It probably registered between M6.0 to M6.5 and threw down as many as 40 castles and church towers over a radius of 120 miles around the city.

Thousands were reported killed and countless injured, perhaps kept at low levels because of the low population of the region at the time. The alpine societies did not completely recover for over a 100 years, it was not long after that Basel went on to become a famous Renaissance city for artistic and intellectual vigor in central Europe.

The quake occurred along one of the faults which bound the Rhine graben, a down-dropping tectonic block which has capture the Rhine River. Surface fault ruptures reached a maximum of 0.5 meters or a little less than 2 feet and extended for several miles. Excavations of the fault scarp and analysis of the subsurface materials suggest at least three earthquakes of similar magnitude had occurred between 8,500 years before present to 1350 and indicate a reoccurance period of every 1,500 to 2,500 years.

The quake was one more disaster in a Europe who already suffering from the devastation of the Great Plague.

Researchers estimate that a similar quake today would cause between $30 billion to $50 billon in damage and given the large industrial base in the region, a large quake would surely pose a significant health and safety risk.

References: Acitve normal faulting in the upper Rhine graben and paleoseismic identification of the 1356 Basel earthquake; Meghraoui, M., Delouis, B., Ferry, M., Giardini, D., Huggenberger, P., Spottke, I., Granet, M.; Science, 293, 2070-2073.

More information: Paleoseismicity of Switzerland. << Excellent Desceiptions!


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