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The Fear Inspiring Puerto Rico Trench

Puerto Rico fell victim to an earthquake on 11 October 1918 that measured 7.5 on the Richter Scale. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami that came bearing down on the Puerto Rican coast with a wall of water that was estimated at approximately six feet high. This disaster claimed the lives of 116 people. Santo Domingo felt the earth shake in 1953 and in 1981 nature gently reminded Puerto Rico of the lurking danger below the ground. All these events have been attributed to the Puerto Rico Trench.

In recent years more studies and surveys of the Puerto Rico Trench have delivered some interesting and disturbing facts. The Atlantic Ocean's deepest part is found on the eight kilometer trench line, with a depth of 28 232 feet. Puerto Rico is located to the south of the trench and its fault line. The Puerto Rico Trench can most easily be described as the border between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The tireless study of this trench and the establishment of the Puerto Rican Seismic Society in 1988 are all preventative measures and safety precautions to be able to foresee and warn locals of pending tsunamis and earthquakes. Scientists have concluded that the Puerto Rico Trench can be dangerous and the cause of future disasters.

Surveys of the trench have shown that the tectonic plate, just north of the Puerto Rico Trench is shifting. It is moving downwards almost underneath Puerto Rico and shows signs of recent movement. These findings are supported by the cracks in the limestone layer to the south of the trench indicating the movement of the plate, and the descending of the plate is continuing. In short, the North American tectonic plate is moving underneath the Caribbean tectonic plate.

Although the movement of these two plates do not show to be a major danger in regard to earthquakes, the concern for tsunamis is great. It was previously believed that the plates moving past each other could cause large-scale seismic activity, but most of those fears have been laid to rest through the study of the plate activity. The concern is with the descending North American tectonic plate. Landslides that might occur during the down ward movement of the plate could bring about devastating tsunamis.

Even though the future is unknown, research and studies have confirmed that the Puerto Rico Trench will trigger earthquakes and tsunamis in the years to come. When exactly they will occur is in nature's hands, but with the developing and sophisticated equipment that is available scientists are hopeful that local residents will be able to be warned of the coming danger, to prevent unnecessary casualties and damage.


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