Local Seismologist Explains Chile Earthquake

FRESNO, Calif. The death toll is at more than 700 Sunday night. And experts warn, the area will no doubt see this type of destruction again.

As the death toll continues to climb in Chile, Dr. Stephen Lewis, a Fresno-based seismologist, says he's been busy trying to contact friends who live in and around the earthquake ravaged areas.

"I remain nervous. I haven't received emails back from a couple of people I've contacted but you know they're having power outages and all of the same normal things after an earthquake so I'm not too anxious yet."

Dr. Lewis has spent time in Chile studying the area's seismic activity. He says Saturday morning's massive 8.8 magnitude quake is the second largest in the country's history. And that it's likely more are inevitable.

The fault line in that region rests on an incline between oceanic and continental plates, an area usually prone to powerful shifts in movement.

"And that big surface area produces lots of frictional strength and it takes a huge amount of force to overcome that type of strength and cause a slip."

As Chileans continue the cleanup process, valley Catholics are offering them their prayers. Catholics make up an estimated 70-percent of Chile's population.

Father James Torrens hopes the support from the valley and around the world will continue. "They are very resilient and assertive people so they will deal with it."

Saturday's quake was 500 times stronger than the Haitian quake last month. But unlike Haiti, Chile has structures that are better equipped to deal with earthquakes.

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