Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When Continents Collide

The massive earthquake in the Sechuan Province of China Monday was caused by a continuing collision between India and Asia. Fifty million years ago, when India was a giant continental-sized island, it crashed into southern Asia. India continues to slide north at the rate of two inches a year. The stresses generated by this movement push up the Himalaya Mountains and create multiple earthquakes between Afghanistan and China annually.

Monday's earthquake was rated a massive 7.9 on the Richter Scale. Aftershocks as great as an extremely destructive 6.0 followed immediately and smaller aftershocks have been continuing since Monday.

With 15,000 or more people killed and upwards to 18,000 still missing, the Sechuan earthquake is the biggest to hit China since 1976 when nearly a quarter of a million people perished. Fearing potentiallt devastating floods should earthquake-damaged dams burst, more than 2000 Chinese soldiers have been sent tot he region to make repairs to the largest structure, Zipingpa Dam. There are more than 391 smaller dams in the region that also have been damaged.

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