Nicaragua reported 17 tremors in Managua Thursday night, ranging in magnitude from 2.3 to 3.7, according to the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER).
The tremors were all located in the northern half of the capital, near the Apoyeque Volcano in Lake Managua and along the Nejapa-Miraflores fault line, promoting the government to declare a “green alert” for a possible large earthquake (even though seismic activity is common in the area).
The recent tremors, most of which were unnoticed by residents, are reportedly due to local fault line activity and not volcanic grumblings. Still, INETER is not ruling out that the seismic uptick was triggered by the 7.6-magnitute quake in Nicoya, Costa Rica.
In a press conference, INETER director Javier Mejía and other government officials urged residents in Managua and Ciudad Sandino to pay close attention to the government’s reports and recommendations in the hours to come.
“The (green alert) puts on alert the National System of Disaster Mitigation and Response (SINAPRED) in Managua and all its municipalities to prepare for a possible large-scale earthquake in any one of the municipalities or departments of Managua,” said Guillermo González, executive secretary of SINAPRED. “This measure is strictly preventive, but we are starting all the preparations that are needed to respond to a big earthquake.”
González said Nicaraguan families should remain calm and trust that their government is ready for anything.
He said families living in Managua need to identify safe places in their homes in the event of a quake and should remove heavy items from the walls or bookcases to safe-proof their homes from falling objects. González also recommends that families prepare a first aid kit to respond to minor injuries and to keep a flashlight on hand in case a quake occurs at night.
The government also recommends that people keep their personal documents and identification on them.
Fidel Moreno, the Sandinistas’ top political operative in Managua, said municipal agents will be visiting some 400 families that are still living in the ruins of the last earthquake that leveled the capital to try to convince them to move into temporary shelters.
In April, 2011, the government evacuated some 700 people living four skeletal structures known as “the ruins” and moved the squatters to a newly constructed neighborhood of cement-block homes in Ciudad Sandino. The old buildings were demolished, but other condemned buildings remain in the northern part of the city.
As the government prepares for another possible quake, Sandinista officials say they don’t want to alarm the population but want people to be prepared in the event of disaster.
The 1972 quake that killed Managua
Managua—history suggests—is a city waiting to be destroyed by a major earthquake. It’s a reoccurring event that has already happened three times in the past 127 years.
The 6.3-magnitude earthquake that destroyed Nicaragua’s capital in 1972 leveled all but five of the city’s major buildings, claiming some 10,000 lives and displacing half the city’s population. In a matter of hours, Managua went from being the hippest and liveliest city in Central America to a smoldering ruin.
In total, 541 city blocks in Managua were destroyed or irreparably damaged and had to be bulldozed afterwards.
Not only was the earthquake disastrous, but so too was the relief effort, which served to line dictator Anastasio Somoza’s pockets with millions in swindled aid and set the stage for an impoverished and backwards Nicaragua that was born from the ashes.
The city was previously leveled by earthquakes in 1885 and then again in 1931—meaning a monstrous earthquake occurs every 40 to 45 years or so (don’t do the math, it’s too scary).
The city’s pending expiration date is due to five active fault lines that cross through the city center, making it one of the most seismically active areas of the country. After the ’72 quake there was brief talk about relocating Nicaragua’s capital to Masaya or Carazo.
Unfortunately stubbornness won out over common sense, and the city was rebuilt in the same disaster-prone location, sealing its fate as a shaky place to live.